Panama Flag

20 Fascinating Facts About Panama

20 Fascinating Facts About Panama


1. Located in Central America, Panama has been inhabited for more than 10,000 years. It’s believed that indigenous groups such as the Kuna, Ngöbe-Buglé, Emberá, Wounaan, and Naso were living in the area before the Spanish arrived.

2. However, unlike the pyramid complexes of many Latin American countries, very few physical remains of these great civilizations have been found in Panama.

3. The first European to explore Panama was Spaniard Rodrigo de Bastidas in 1501.

4. In 1502, Cristopher Columbus claimed the region for Spain, and Panama remained under Spanish control until 1821.

5. The country encompasses more than 1,600 islands located off its Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Panama Island

6. In 1821 Panama became part of Gran Colombia. The short-lived republic (1819-1830) was created by revolutionary Simón Bolívar. It included the territories of present-day Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama as well as parts of northern Peru, western Guyana, and northwest Brazil.

7. Following Gran Colombia’s demise, Panama became a state within Colombia.

8. In 1903 Panama separated from Colombia and became completely independent.

9. Panama is probably most famous for the Panama Canal. The canal connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and has long been a source of foreign interest.

10. In the 1880s French engineer and builder of the Suez Canal, Ferdinand de Lesseps, attempted to build a canal linking the two oceans. It failed due to financial difficulties and the death of over 20,000 workers from tropical diseases.

11. In the early 1900s, the US bought the rights to build the Panama Canal and was given control of the Canal Zone. The canal was finally completed in 1914.

Panama Canal

12. In 1999 Panama took complete command of the Panama Canal, ending nearly a century of US control over one of the world’s most important waterways.

13. The flag of Panama supposedly symbolizes the two major political parties in government at the time it was created in 1904. The red was for the liberals, blue for the conservatives, and white for peace between them. However, the colors and stars also suggest it was influenced by the design of the USA flag.

14. The US invaded Panama in 1989 to remove a former ally, military ruler Manuel Noriega, because of his authoritarian rule and use of the country as a hotbed for drug trafficking.

15. The Panama Hat is not actually from Panama, but Ecuador. The straw hats were woven along the Ecuadorian coast and then taken to Panama initially to be sold to canal workers and, after the canal opened, to affluent westerners passing through the Canal.

16. The narrowest point of the Americas is in Panama –known as the Isthmus of Panama. The absolute narrowest section is the point running between the mouth of the Nergalá River on the Atlantic shore and the mouth of the Chepo River on the Pacific coast. It is just 50km wide.

17. As such, it is possible to watch the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean and the sunset over the Pacific Ocean on the same day.

18. Furthermore, on the summit of Panama’s highest peak, Volcán Barú, it’s possible to see both oceans at the same time.

Panama’s highest peak, Volcán Barú,

19. In 2016 Panama was at the center of an international tax scandal. The Panama Papers exposed how the rich and powerful use tax havens to conceal their wealth. The scandal revealed Panama as one of the most popular tax havens.

20. Panama has the largest rainforest in the Western Hemisphere outside the Amazon Basin.

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