Top 50 Interesting Facts about Panama and Panamanians
Panama is a Central American country that shares many similarities with its neighboring nations. However, it is also a unique country with its own customs, history, and culture. In this article, we have compiled 50 fascinating facts about this nation and its people. These facts will not only provide you with a first impression of Panama but also help you plan an engaging and captivating holiday.
50 of the Most Interesting Facts about Panamanians and Panama
Let’s embark on a journey through the history, traditions, and attractions of this remarkable country.
1. People settled in Panama long before the Common Era. The Isthmus of Panama served as a continuous migration route for ancient populations traveling between North and South America.
2. During the Common Era, the Choco, Chibchan, and Cueva Indian tribes inhabited the region and engaged in trade with the Incas and Mayas.
3. Panama also had connections to the Philippines during this time, with coconuts being brought from the Philippines to the continent.
4. In 1501, European explorers first arrived on the shores of Panama, led by conquistadors under the command of Rodrigo de Bastides. Christopher Columbus visited Panama a year later.
5. The first person to lay eyes on the Pacific Ocean was the Spanish explorer Vasco de Balboa, who founded the city of Portobelo.
6. The transport of Inca gold by the Spanish through Panama attracted the attention of pirates. Henry Morgan had notable success in capturing and plundering Portobelo and Panama.
7. In 1821, Panama achieved independence from Spain but promptly became part of Simon Bolivar’s Great Colombia.
8. The construction of the Panama Canal led to American involvement in the country’s destiny. They deployed troops and declared Panama independent from Colombia.
9. In 1989, the United States once again intervened in Panama, staging a military coup. However, they were compelled, in 1999, to relinquish control of the Panama Canal Zone back to the republic.
10. Today, Panama is a sovereign and independent state, maintaining permanent membership in the UN, the OAS, and the Non-Aligned Movement.
11. Panama is one of the few countries in the world situated on two continents simultaneously, belonging to one specific part of the world—the Americas.
12. The Isthmus of Panama serves as a bridge connecting North and South America. It has an S-shaped profile and is only 48 kilometers wide at its narrowest point.
13. Panama covers an area of 78 thousand square kilometers, with a population of 4.2 million people residing in the country.
14. The official language of the republic is Spanish. However, due to the construction of the famous canal by France, many people also speak French, alongside English.
15. Panama City, founded in 1519, is the capital of the country and home to 1.3 million people.
16. The word «Panama» can be translated from the language of the local indigenous people as «A place full of fish.» Alternatively, it is believed to mean «Many Butterflies.»
17. The predominant religion in the republic is Christianity, specifically Catholicism, influenced by Spain’s prolonged presence in these lands.
18. The majority of the population consists of mestizos, the descendants of mixed marriages between European colonizers and local indigenous people.
19. The official currency of the country is the balboa, although Panama is one of the few nations in the world that has fully adopted the use of the American dollar.
20. Panama operates in the -5 UTC time zone, which means it is 5 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time.
21. The Panama Canal is the country’s most renowned man-made landmark, completed in 1920. The canal stretches over 81 kilometers in length, with an average depth of 12 meters.
22. As the world’s busiest shipping route, the Panama Canal accommodates around 14,000 ships daily, reducing the travel distance from the Atlantic to the Pacific by 8,000 kilometers.
23. The Bridge of the Two Americas, constructed in 1962, holds the distinction of being the first non-divisible bridge over the Panama Canal. It spans 1,600 meters in length and stands 106 meters high.
24. The Centennial Bridge, built in 2004 and situated 15 kilometers from the Bridge of the Two Americas, measures 1,052 meters in length and stands at a height of 184 meters.
25. Regarded as the country’s main architectural attraction, Old Panama, also known as Panama la Viejo, forms the historical center of the capital. Here, colonial buildings, including a cathedral and the ruins of a convent, can be explored.
26. Another significant historical site is the town of Portobelo and the adjacent Fort Lorenzo, both of which have earned spots on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Character and Customs of the Panamanians
27. Panamanians, like other Latin Americans, are known for their friendliness and openness. They also exhibit a strong sense of fatalism, believing that events unfold as they are meant to.
28. Panamanians are expressive, using active gestures and facial expressions to accompany their speech.
29. Punctuality is not a strong suit of Panamanians, who generally run late due to a cultural preference for a more relaxed pace.
30. Despite their relaxed attitude, Panamanians are quite inclined towards gambling and enthusiastically participate in disputes and lotteries, maintaining a fervent belief in their chances of winning.
31. To avoid causing offense, Panamanians tend to avoid responding to requests with an outright refusal. Instead, they often say «Maybe.»
32. Panamanians are highly sociable and readily make new friends. Friendship holds great importance to them, often taking precedence over work and other commitments.
33. Family also plays a significant role in Panamanian life. Many households accommodate 2–3 families of close relatives, fostering a strong sense of kinship.
34. In social interactions, it is customary to address men as «Don» and women as «Doña,» followed by their surnames.
35. Panamanians tend to avoid using official street addresses and instead rely on landmarks when giving directions.
36. Panama is a diverse, multi-ethnic country, where the descendants of European settlers, African slaves, and mixed marriages with indigenous people coexist. Some indigenous tribes continue to uphold their ancestral traditions.
37. Among Panama’s indigenous tribes, the Kuna is particularly renowned. They reside on the San Blas Islands and enjoy a degree of autonomy, which they use to preserve their unique culture.
38. The Kuna tribe operates under a matriarchal system, with women holding significant authority in the community. While men engage in hunting, fishing, and warfare, it is the women who lead the tribe. Men are required to seek a woman’s permission when buying or selling goods.
39. The Kuna practice a custom in which girls choose their own suitors. If a bride turns out to be undesirable, the chosen groom has the right to run away from her three times. If the bride’s friends and family fail to catch the fleeing groom, she must search for a new candidate.
40. The Kuna have long practiced partner childbirth, with husbands actively participating in the process, helping to alleviate their wives’ discomfort through shouting and pushing.
41. The Kuna is unique among indigenous tribes in their favorable attitude towards albinos. They exhibit a relatively high percentage of albinos, about 0.75%, earning them the nickname «White Indians» in Panama.
Nature of Panama
42. Panama is situated entirely within the humid tropical climate zone of the Northern Hemisphere. The year is divided into distinct dry and rainy seasons, and the average monthly temperature remains relatively consistent.
43. The primary natural disaster affecting Panama is hurricanes, which bring heavy rainfall and frequent flooding. Earthquakes are another concern.
44. Panama is predominantly a mountainous country, with its highest peak being the Baru volcano, located near the Costa Rican border, standing at a height of 3,474 meters.
45. Panama boasts an extensive coastline, stretching over 2,500 kilometers, as it is bordered by both the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans.
46. Panama is home to the world’s largest population of harpy eagles, magnificent birds of prey with wingspans exceeding 2 meters. These eagles are recognized as the national symbol of the country.
47. Among the country’s exotic creatures, the most famous is the Golden Frog, a poisonous amphibian with a unique legend. According to local beliefs, this frog turns into gold after death, bringing good luck. As a result, it is commonly featured on lottery tickets.
48. A highly favored tourist destination is the Bocas del Toro archipelago in the Caribbean Sea. Comprising 60 islands, this area has been designated as a National Park.
49. The Republic’s largest island is Coiba, located in the Pacific Ocean, along the migratory routes of four species of whales and dolphins.
50. The country’s largest National Park, Darien, situated near the Colombian border, is renowned not only for its rich diversity of flora and fauna but also for its continued habitation by wild indigenous tribes.
Friends, if you know any more interesting facts about Panamanians and the country itself, please share them in the comments. This country is replete with captivating stories, culture, and traditions, and many people would appreciate discovering something new. Your contributions are greatly appreciated!