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Destination Panama

The Isthmus of Panama separates the world’s two largest oceans, as well as North and South America. Panamanians are friendly, fun, tolerant, proud and eager to please and have a host of professional services directed towards the visitor.

European settlers, particularly the Spanish, arrived in Panama around 1501. This historic period is marked by the arrival of Rodrigo de Bastidas on the Caribbean Coast at what is today known as Kuna Yala. However, the most historically important visitor to Panama was Christopher Columbus on his fourth voyage to the Americas. Panama’s largest port on the Carabbian, Colon is named for him. He was followed later by Balboa who was the first to realize that there was a short passage between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. In honor of this important discovery Panama's currency was named the Balboa. This key route would soon serve as the America’s most important transoceanic passageway.

Due to the importance of its narrow passage, Panama was quickly converted into a major commercial capital, connecting Asia, America, Africa and Europe. It is because of this introduction of many different cultures and peoples that Panama forged a distinct Panamanian way of life. From the continent of Africa arrived slaves, while Asia brought sugar cane, mango, rice, and silk. The Europeans introduced the horse, pig, wheat, and steel, while from Americas came potatoes, tomatoes, pineapple, and tons of precious metals. The English, Dutch and French also discovered the richness of Panama, each adding distinctive cultural traits.

From these varied ethnic and cultural sources was generated a unique folklore and tradition, combining African drums with European lyrics and guitar playing. Along the Caribbean coast one would encounter dances, accompanied by decorative costumes. Many times this displays were done in honor of loved ones, or narratives depicting the shocking conditions of the slaves. En Portobelo, the principal port of the Caribbean, one could witness the legendary fairs that grouped the commercial floats of the “Rio de la Plata,” accompanied by European floats of products shuttled by mule. These and other events helped to shape the culture of hospitality and service that is so typically Panamanian.

The gold rush in California ignited a new wave of worldwide commerce to pass through the Panamanian Ports on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides. With people and merchandise rushing to California, Panama provided the shortest and most economical route from the east coast of the United States and Europe. As the millions arrived in search of gold and made the transit across the narrow divide, the idea of a railway to connect the two costs gained strength. A US company soon contracted to build the connections. Using blacks from the Caribbean and bringing in Irish and Chinese laborers construct the railroad. Economically, the significance of the railway was profound, but of almost equal importance were the new ethnic elements that it contributed to the Panamanian experience. This new influx peoples further diversifying the already rich, international populace. The new city of Colon soon replaced the colonial city of Portobelo as the principal Caribbean port. On the Pacific side in 1671 Panama City was moved to its present location and became the most important city, politically and economically in the region.

Panama continued to be an important commercial route but to continue to prosper and grow the need for a fresh water canal connecting the two oceans became increasingly evident. To this end the French arrived at the turn of the century with the intention of constructing the canal. This brought a brand new wave of immigrant labor from Italy, India and the West Indies. As had happened in the past, this new wave of immigrants contributed greatly to the social fabric and development of the Panamanian identity. Unfortunately the reason they came, to build a canal, came to an ignominious end. The workers were overwhelmed by stifling humidity and fell victim to sicknesses, particularly malaria and yellow fever which caused many thousands to die. Much of what remains today of this effort can be seen in the French architecture of the buildings, statues, and sculptures located in Panama City’s Casco Viejo.

Panama finally separated from Columbia to become an independent country in 1903. The next year, under the efforts of the United States and then President Teddy Roosevelt, the construction of the canal was once again undertaken. It would not become fully operational until 1914, a full ten years later. The completion of the canal would once again convert Panama into a main nexus and transit point for international commerce and trade.

Panama is a melting pot of races, each one offering something distinct to the society. You can find food and traditions from almost every culture on earth. Because of such economically important areas such as the Colon Free Zone and the International Banking District of Panama City, peoples from all over the world; Arab and Jew, American and Chinese, Hindu and Japanese work side by side. They all have one thing in common, they were born in Panama.

Panama is truly the crossroads of the world.

Articles About Panama

National Parks

Bocas Del Toro
The archipelago of Bocas del Toro in Panama is situated on the northwestern coast of Panama in and around the Bay of Chiriquí. International travelers have only recently discovered this isolated region of Panama.

Boquete
Nestled in the Western Highlands of Panama at 3600 ft. is the valley and town of Boquete. With a cool and comfortable year round climate is a great to visit and get out of the heat and humidity of the coastal plane.

Currency
Panama’s currency is know as the Balboa, which is printed only in coins and not in paper bills. The value of the Balboa coins are equal to that of the US dollar, and are used and regarded as such.

Retiring or Buying a Home in Panama
Panama offers foreigners many opportunities for investment as well as a great place to retire. Find out about some of the different reasons and see if Panama is the right place for you.

Retiring in Boquete
Numerous articles have been written in the last few years touting Boquete as the perfect place to retire. Take a look at what they have to say and see if it might be the right place for you.

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