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Panama – The Country

“Why Panama”: it is still one of the best-kept travellers’ secrets in the world!

  ¨outstanding natural beauty, astounding biodiversity.”   ROUGH GUIDES

“About Panama”

This small country has everything to offer:

- Good infrastructure and direct connections from many cities in USA, Canada, Europe and Latin America.

- Good quality of life with all the services you need: hospitals, schools, universities, banks, etc.

- Exceptional nature: rainforests, protected National parks and the best bird watching and sport fishing in the world

- One of the most secure countries in the Americas

- Year around warm temperatures: tropical climate in the lowlands and comfortably warm in the highlands

- Free from earthquakes, hurricanes or tropical storms. Unlike the U.S. there are no tornados, twisters, or wild weather conditions.

- Lots of Latin traditions: 7 different indigenous tribes, local festivities, nice regional artisanal products, great carnival, Pollera dress, molas, etc. A real cultural experience!

- Tropical beaches on two coasts, uninhabited islands, whale watching, coral reefs for snorkeling, and world renowned for surfing. Some of the best ocean, lake and river fishing in the world.

-Species of animals and birds you will not see anywhere else. World-breaking bird watching!

Provinces and regions

Panama is divided into ten provinces, with their respective local authorities (governors) and has a total of ten cities. Also, there are five Comarcas (literally: “Shires”) populated by a variety of indigenous groups.

  Provinces

- Bocas del Toro

- Chiriquí

- Coclé

- Colón

- Darién

- Herrera

- Los Santos

- Panamá

- West Panamá

- Veraguas

Regions

- Emberá

- Kuna Yala

- Ngöbe-Buglé Comarca

- Kuna de Madugandí

- Kuna de Wargandí

Panama: A bit of history…

North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the west, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The capital is Panama City.

Explored and settled by the Spanish in the 16th century, Panama broke with Spain in 1821 and joined a union of Nueva Granada, Ecuador, and Venezuela, named the Republic of Gran Colombia. When Gran Colombia dissolved in 1831, Panama and Nueva Granada remained joined. Nueva Granada later became the Republic of Colombia. With the backing of the United States, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903, allowing the Panama Canal to be built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914. In 1977, an agreement was signed for the complete transfer of the Canal from the United States to Panama by the end of the 20th.

Demographics

Panama, the smallest Spanish-speaking Latin American country in terms of population, had a population of 3,8 millions in 2012. The CIA World Factbook gave the following statististics for the population (2010): “Mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 70%, Amerindian and mixed (West Indian) 14%, White 10%, Amerindian 6%”. The Amerindian population includes seven indigenous peoples: Ngäbe, Kuna (Guna), Emberá, Buglé, Wounaan, Naso Tjerdi (Teribe), and Bri Bri.

More than half the population lives in the Panama City–Colón metropolitan corridor, which spans several cities. Panama’s urban population surpasses the 70%, making the country’s population the most urbanized in Central America. The 2010 census in Panama classified approximately 12.3% of the nation’s population as indigenous. The Amerindian population figure stood at 417,500 individuals in 2010.

The culture, customs, and language of the Panamanians are predominantly Caribbean and Spanish. Spanish is the official and dominant language. About 93% of the population speak Spanish as their first language, though many citizens speak both English and Spanish or native languages. English is spoken by 8%, French by 4% and Arabic by 1%. The private educational system offers German, Portuguese and Italian.

Education in Panama

Originally, during the 16th century, education in Panama was provided by Jesuit priests. Public education, as a national and governmental institution, began only in 1903. The principles underlying this early education system were that children should receive different types of education in accordance with their social class and therefore the position they were expected to occupy in society. In 2000, it was estimated that 91.9% of the population was literate.

Currency

The Panamanian currency is officially the Balboa, fixed at parity with the United States dollar since independence in 1903. In practice, however, the country uses U.S. dollars for all its paper currency.

Economy

The expansion project of the Panama Canal, combined with the conclusion of a free trade agreement with the United States, is expected to boost and extend economic expansion for some time. According to the CIA World Factbook, as of 2011 Panama had an unemployment rate of 2.7%. Despite Panama’s status as an upper-middle income nation – as measured by per capita GDP – it remains a country of stark contrasts. Perpetuated by dramatic educational disparities, over 24% of Panama’s population lived in national poverty in 2013 and currently according to latest reports by the World Bank 6.6% of the country’s population lives in extreme poverty.

Panama’s economy, because of its key geographic location, is mainly based on a well developed service sector heavily weighted towards banking, commerce, tourism, and trading. Copper and gold deposits are being developed by foreign investors, to the dismay of some environmental groups, as all of the projects are located within protected areas.

Tourism

Tourism in the Republic of Panama is rapidly growing. Having the Central America’s largest airport, tourism in Panama kept its growth during the past 5 years due to the government offering tax and price discounts to foreign guests and retirees. These economic incentives caused Panama to be regarded as a relatively good place to retire in the world.

Culture

The culture of Panama derived from European music, art and traditions that were brought over by the Spanish to Panama. Hegemonic forces have created hybrid forms of this by blending African and Native American culture with European culture. Outside of Panama City, regional festivals take place throughout the year featuring local musicians and dancers. Another example of unique culture in Panama is all the artisanal, typical clothes and regional products everywhere.

Religion

- 93% Christians

75.3% Catholics
16.4% Protestants
1.3% Other Christians
- 2.1% Other religions

- 4.8% No affiliation

Politics

 For all people national elections are universal and mandatory for all citizens 18 years and older. National elections for the executive and legislative branches take place every five years. Panama’s politics take place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Panama is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.

“over nine hundred species of bird, more than in the whole of North America. Over half the country is still covered by dense tropical rainforest, and large areas are protected by a system of national parks and nature reserves.”