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Panama Information - Page 2
Spanish explorers arrived in Panama at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Colonization followed and Spain ruled the region for three centuries.

In 1821 Panama, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela formed the Republic of Gran Colombia.

Gran Colombia dissolved in 1830 and Colombia and Panama became the state of Nueva Granada. Panama declared independence after a civil war (1899-1903).

In 1903 the United States bought the rights to build the Panama Canal, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The US also gained sovereignty of the Panama Canal Zone, the land either side of the Canal.

Between 1968 and 1981 General Omar Torrijos Herrera (1929-1981) headed a dictatorship in Panama. During his rule, General Torrijos negotiated a Treaty that led to the handover of the Canal to Panama at the end of 1999.

In the early eighties General Manuel Noriega Moreno became the military leader of Panama. However in 1988 the US charged Noriega with drug smuggling. In 1989 the US invaded Panama; Noriega was replaced by Guillermo Endara.

Martin Torrijos, the son of Omar Torrijos, won the presidential elections in 2004.

The service sector employs the largest percentage of the working population and generates the largest percentage of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Services include tourism, banking, insurance, flagship registry and earnings from the Panama Canal. The economy also benefits from the Colon Free Trade Zone which plays host to numerous companies.

Major industries are cement and construction materials, construction, sugar milling and brewing.

Agriculture accounts for the smallest percentage of the GDP but provides employment for a significant number of the workforce. Bananas are an important cash crop. Other agricultural products are corn, coffee, rice, sugarcane and vegetables. Livestock is reared. Shrimps are provided by the fishing industry. (2011)

The arts of Panama reflect the origins of the country's ethnic groups: Amerindian, Spanish, and African.

Traditional crafts include textiles, mask-making and wood carving.

During Carnival a variety of music and dance is celebrated, for example, music derived from African heritage and Latin American salsa.

National cultural institutions are the National Orchestra of Panama, the National Theatre, the Art Museum, the History Museum and the Museum of Natural Sciences.

Sports played in Panama include baseball, football and volleyball.

Popular water sports are kayaking, snorkelling, diving and surfing. Panama is also known for big game fishing and visitors can fish for barracuda, marlin, tuna and sailfish.

Christmas and Easter and all religious holidays are celebrated. Other holidays include New Year's Day - 1 January, and Independence Day (from Colombia, 1903) - 3 November.

News from Panama is available from Newslink.

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