Due to its privileged geographical position, throughout its history Panama has served as a crossroads, as a shortcut through the seas, as the meeting point and axis of the four cardinal directions. Men and women from across the globe have crossed its narrow width in the center of the Americas, their destinations spread across the world, their motivations unknown and infinite. The name, “Panama,” is a legacy of the forgotten language of its natives, meaning “abundance of fish and butterflies,” as well as the name of a local tree. Its shores are the scroll upon which our history is written.
The country’s official name is the Republic of Panama. The isthmus is located at Central America’s extreme southern end. The country shares borders with its sister nations of Costa Rica and Colombia, and encompasses an area of 75,517 square kilometers and 2,490 kilometers of shorelines in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
Its climate is tropical, with uniform temperatures throughout the year, averaging 27° C (80° F). Its territory is divided into ten provinces and five Native American districts. The capital city, located in the Province of Panama, is Panama City.
It is the principal departure point for any other destination, both domestically and internationally. It is currently Central America’s most modern city.
Its population consists of 3.9 million inhabitants, and Spanish is the official language. Nonetheless, English proficiency has become indispensable for professional competitiveness, and it is understood and spoken by a large part of the population.
The country’s population is ethnically mestizo, coexisting with peoples of Hispanic and Afro-Antillean origins. However, there are also prosperous and respected colonies of peoples of Jewish, Indian, Arab, Greek, and Italian origins, as well as immigrants from Spain and many Latin American countries. Panama’s system of government is democratic, its leaders elected through popular suffrage every five years.
The Balboa is the country’s currency, though its value is pegged to the American Dollar on an equal exchange (1:1). Panama’s economy has been completely dollarized since 1904. Thus, dollars and balboas (of which there are no bills, only coins) are used interchangeably to complete economic transactions.
Important dates and festivities:
January 1st (New Year’s Day)
January 9th (Martyr’s Day)
Carnivals and Easter (variable dates)
May 1st (Labor Day)
August 15th (Foundation of Panama La Vieja)
November 3rd (Independence from Colombia)
November 4th (Flag Day)
November 5th (Colon Province Day)
November 10th (First Announcement of Independence from Spain, in the Villa de Los Santos)
November 28th (Independence from Spain)
December 8th (Mother’s Day)
December 20th (U.S. Invasion)
December 25th (Christmas)
December 31st (Last day of the year)