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Panama: An Introduction


La Republica de Panama, or just simply Panama, is a country slightly smaller than South Carolina located south of Costa Rica and north of Columbia. Panama is most famous for the Panama Canal, which allows passage from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean. Panama has a chain of mountains along the west of the country, has moderate hills in the interior, and has flat land along the east coast. There are vast forests in Panama’s tropical weather.

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Panama’s tropical temperature makes it possible for Panama to grow its biggest exports: coffee, sugar, shrimp, bananas, etc. However, Panama cannot grow or manufacture certain items, such as capital goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods, and chemicals. Some of Panama’s major trading partners include the U.S., Sweden, Spain, Netherlands, Costa Rica, Antilles, Japan, Mexico, and Colombia. Panama has one of the most important trading ports in the world. Its geographical location makes it one of the busiest ports in the world.

Panama is most famous for the internationally known Panama Canal. The Panama Canal was first thought up in 1513 by Charles V, who at the time was the king of Spain. Although Charles V never followed through, the Spaniards built paved roads to transport goods. In 1880, French companies directed by Ferdinand de Lesseps, the builder of the Suez Canal, started construction on the Panama Canal. After seven years, the project was abandoned. In 1903, when Panama was declared independent, a treaty was signed which authorized the United States to begin construction of the canal in 1904. The canal was completed and started operation on August 15, 1914, when the US cargo ship, Ancon, made a historic first passage.

However, before the canal was built, Panama struggled for its independence from Columbia. In 1821, Central America revolted against Spain, which is when Panama joined Columbia. For the next eighty-two years, Panama unsuccessfully tried to break away from Columbia. Between 1850 and 1900, Panama had 40 administrations, 50 riots, 5 attempted secessions, and 13 US interventions. Panama eventually gained its independence in 1903, with US giving its support.

The Panamanian flag was a symbol of the newly freed country once it gained its independence from Columbia. It was designed be Mr. Amador Guerrero and it was made by his wife, Ms. Maria Ossa de Amador. The flag was baptized on December 20, 1903 by Reverend Fray Bernardino. It is celebrated on November 1.

Today, the Panamanian government is an example of a constitutional democracy. It contains executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. The executive branch consists of a president and two vice-presidents. The presidential position is held by Martin Torrijos Espino and the two vice-presidential positions are held by Samuel Lewis Navarro and Ruben Arosemena Valdes. The Legislative Branch has a unicameral National Assembly which contains seventy eight seats. The judicial branch is a Supreme Court of Justice, which contains nine judges who serve ten year terms, five superior courts, and three courts of appeal.

When the Spanish controlled Panama, they brought with them Spanish cultures and traditions, creating a new culture. The natives of Panama, the Kuna, are a close community. They are close with their families and live a simple way of life. In the Kuna’s culture, ties are passed from the mother’s side of the family, meaning that after the marriage, the husband must move into the wife’s family’s house and work for her family.

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In all countries, sports are a major part of the culture. Panama is no exception. The main sport in Panama today is baseball. Some of the Major League Baseball most prominent baseball players have come out of Panama. The most famous of them include Rod Carew, who played for the Minnesota Twins and the California Angels, Omar Moreno, who played for the Pittsburg Pirates, Ben Oglivie, who played for the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, and the Milwaukee Brewers, Mariano Rivera, who currently plays for the Yankees, and Manny Sanguillen, who played mainly with the Pittsburg Pirates and briefly with the Oakland Athletics. Some of today’s Panamanian baseball players include Manuel Corpas, who plays for the Colorado Rockies, Carlos Lee, who plays for the Houston Astros, Mariano Rivera, who plays for the New York Yankees, Carlos Ruiz, who plays for the Philadelphia Phillies, and Olmedo Saenz, who plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

As well as sports, food is a major part of a country’s culture. Some of Panama’s most popular dishes include carimanola, empanadas, tortillas, tamales, tajadas, and patacones. Carimanola is a roll made from ground and boiled yucca and filled with chopped meat and boiled eggs. The roll is then fried before it is served. Empanadas are similar to a Cornish pastry that can be filled with meat, chicken, or cheese. Tortillas are a common meal in all of Latin America. In Panama, tortillas are made from ground maize and fried like a pancake. Tamales are a local delicacy made from boiled ground corn with spices, chicken, or pork inside. It is then wrapped in a banana leaf and boiled before serving. Tajadas are a dish that that are more commonly known as platano maduros. It is made from a ripe plantain cut i slices, length ways and baked with cinnamon. Lastly, patacones, also known as tostones, is made from green fried plantain, which is cut crossways in pieces, with salt, pressed and fried.

Today, Panama remains most famous for the Panama Canal. However, it has also received attention from people due o the fact that one of their former leaders is imprisoned in Miami, Florida as a result of drug trafficking charges. Manuel Noriega used to be one of the United States top allies in Latin America. However, their relationship deteriorated when it was discovered that Noriega was a major player in drug trafficking in the Panamanian region. The US also accused him of violating human rights and rigging elections in 1989. Soon after their was a stand-off between US forces stationed at the Panama canal zone and Noriega’s soldiers. Later, President Bush Sr. launched an invasion of Panama because a US marine was killed in Panama City. Noriega surrendered to US forces in 1990 and was flown to the US as a prisoner of war. He was found guilty of multiple charges and was sentenced to forty years in prison which was later reduced to thirty years in 1999. After serving seventeen years in prison, he was scheduled for release on September 9 of this year. However, he is now wanted by the French for using profits from drug trafficking to buy land and remains imprisoned.

In conclusion, Panama has a culture and history decorated by the people, food, and infrastructures that it has become famous for. Most people know Panama for the Panama Canal, but Panama is more than the Canal. People who will go down in American culture have come out of Panama. These people, such as Mariano Rivera and Rod Carew, have imprinted themselves into America’s favorite past-time (baseball). Panama has bred a culture that has made a name for itself in today’s society and will forever be known for it uniqueness and cultural and historical offerings.

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