• Capital City: Panama City (Metro Area Population: 1.1 million)
• Location and Borders: Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Colombia and Costa Rica
• Administrative Divisions: 9 provinces; Bocas del Toro, Chiriqui, Cocle, Colon, Darien, Herrera, Los Santos, Panama, and Veraguas. 1 territory (comarca); San Blas (Kuna Yala).
• Area: Total: 78,200 sq km
Land: 75,990 sq km
Water: 2,210 sq km
• Climate: tropical maritime; hot, humid, cloudy; prolonged rainy season (May to January), short dry season (January to May)
• Population: 3,242,000 : Demographic Growth Rate: 1.56%
• Industries: construction, brewing, cement and other construction materials, sugar milling
• Languages: Spanish (official), English 14% with many bilingual Panamanians
Panama’s history has been formed by a rich pre-Columbian era for more than 12‘000 years. Early cultures in Panama were the Monagrillo, the Cueva and the Conte, particularly famous for their pottery, which was the first in the Americas.
Each of the 9 Panama Provinces has a rich and varied folklore and cultural traditions which are expressed through its music, dances, the cultural dress, and cuisine. As in other Latin-American countries, dances and music are an important part of Panama’s culture. Due to the proximity to Colombia and to the Caribbean immigrants there is, in addition to the classical Latin-American dances, a big variety of others. The well-known Salsa, Bachata, Merengue, Cumbia can be heard as often as the Colombian Tipico and Vallenato, the Haitano, Jamaican Reggae, the in Panama evolved Reggaeton and, not to forget, the numerous folk dances of the indigenous tribes such as the Kuna.
Panama has a very stable economy. Due to its key location at the isthmus and the Panama Canal Panama’s economy is very western oriented and focused on services. Within the service sector, that accounts for just under 80% of total Gross Domestic Product, the emphasis lies in the banking and insurance industry, in commerce and in tourism.
Since the Panama Canal and the Canal Zone have been handed over to Panama the Canal is one of the main income sources of the country. Thanks to the employment of approximately 8000 persons in maintenance and administration the Canal additionally is a safe and consistent employer. Other branches of the service sector are the Colon Free Trade Zone, ports, health care as well as flagship registry. Due to the easy procedures and the cheap taxes a total of one fifth(!) of all ships worldwide is registered in Panama.
The influence of the US in Panama can easily be seen in the popular sports. Basketball and Baseball are two of the sports that please the entire Panamanian population. Various Panamanian Baseball players made it into a professional US baseball team – the most famous among them the Hitter Rod Carew and the Pitcher Mariano Rivera. Other common sports in Panama are football (soccer), boxing, horse racing, cycling and tennis. Thanks to the extended coastlines Panama is also a paradise for surfers, deep sea and sport fishermen as well as for divers.
Panama has a rich tradition in the culinary arts. Due to its location the country is home to a vast array of fresh and tasty fruits, herbs and vegetables as well as delicious seafood. Combine this with influences from the Native Indians, Europeans and other Latin American countries and you have some great food in Panama! Generally, Panamanian food is safe and hygienic without any notable problems.