Destinations » North America
» Central America »
one knows exactly how Panama got its name. Among the most popular theories, the
country is perhaps named after Panama beach, in which Panama meaning "abundance
of fish," it's named after the Panama tree, which is common in the region,
or Panama means "many butterflies," since there are many butterflies in
the summer, which is when the first settlers arrived.
Much of Panama's geography is rocky, but in other locations there is great soil,
making farming quite sustainable in this narrow, coast-lined country. Due to fertile
lands and good weather, the country easily grows plants and attracts animals, making
the region an ideal location for people now and in the past. Even today the lands
are fairly densely and evenly populated although some today cities and the Panama
Canal have altered the heavily lad-based culture. In fact today the country is better
known for its beaches, transportation of goods through the canal, and its cities
in addition to its agricultural goods, including its well-known coffee industry.
Prior to the Europeans' arrival to the Americas the indigenous people lived
almost wholly off the land, but with the European arrival many of these people died
from wars or due to European diseases. Of those who survived, many moved to the
forests and maintained at least aspects of their historic culture in these rural
and secluded areas. However, many of the local people also married the arriving
Spanish creating a new people and culture, however one that was heavily influenced
by that of Spanish culture.
As the land crossing from the Caribbean to the Pacific was established by the Spanish
the region became the center of Spanish trade. This economic growth led to the enslavement
of the remaining indigenous people as well as an economy focused on trade. It also
led to many single Spanish men marrying indigenous women, creating a mixed race
called "mestizo," which most of Panama's population is today.
Despite the relations between the groups, it was still the Spanish traditions, religion,
language, and culture that dominated the region and the people as the Spanish held
nearly all the power. However, these indigenous roots have not been forgotten and
the foods of Panama today are a true combination of locally available foods in Spanish
dishes or cooked in Spanish techniques and with Spanish spices. Arguably more than
in any other way, it is in the foods that the indigenous culture is best expressed,
but clothing and jewelry can also be seen from these cultures.
Over time much of the Spanish influence has remained, but the culture in Panama
and the culture in Spain have taken on very different routes. Spanish culture has
since been heavily influenced by many nearby European countries, while Panama's
way of life has taken another path as its influences have come primarily from the
local people, the geography, and the countries in the Americas. It wasn't until
recently when communication and transportation has improved that the cultures of
these two countries are again growing more similar.
Today Panama is a mix of their past as many rural people continue to work as farmers
and fishers, while many of the urbanites live in cities that are quickly growing
and modernizing, with trade being an important industry. These lifestyles, in addition
to the many cultural differences between the people by location, occupation, ethnicity,
and even language make Panama a diverse country today that mixes aspects of their
culture from both past and present.
Learn More About Panama:
Map of Panama:
Start your trip to Panama with our free Travel Planner: