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PanamáNo 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.

The blue and red rectangles on the flag of Panama represent the two main political parties, the Conservatives (blue) and Liberals (red), while the white represents the peace between the two parties. The blue star symbolizes the civic virtues of purity and honesty while the red star symbolizes authority and law.

Name: Republic of Panama
Independence: November 3, 1903
Capital: Panama City
Currency: Panamanian Balboa
Population: 3,559,408 (2013 estimate)
Ethnicity: Mestizo, Amerindian, European, & Others
Language: Spanish
Religion: Roman Catholic

Information for Panama was last updated: March, 2014 ● View our: Sources & Special Thanks