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Cities in the Spotlight: Panama City, Panama

Updated: Dec 26, 2022

Good Morning!! Today we will be continuing our series of Cities in the Spotlight with Panama City, Panama.


Panama City Information

Panama City, also simply known as Panama (or Panamá in Spanish), is the capital and largest city of Panama. It has an urban population of 880,691, with over 1.5 million in its metropolitan area. The city is located at the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal, in the province of Panama. The city is the political and administrative center of the country, as well as a hub for banking and commerce. The city of Panama was founded on 15 August 1519, by Spanish conquistador Pedro Arias Dávila. The city was the starting point for expeditions that conquered the Inca Empire in Peru. It was a stopover point on one of the most important trade routes in the American continent, leading to the fairs of Nombre de Dios and Portobelo, through which passed most of the gold and silver that Spain took from the Americas.


Panama City Historical Significance

On 28 January 1671, the original city was destroyed by a fire when the privateer Henry Morgan sacked and set fire to it. The city was formally reestablished two years later on 21 January 1673, on a peninsula located 8 km (5 miles) from the original settlement. The site of the previously devastated city is still in ruins, and is now a popular tourist attraction, and is regularly visited by school trips. The construction of the Panama Canal was of great benefit to the infrastructure and economy. Of particular note are the improvements in health and sanitation brought about by the American presence in the Canal Zone. Dr. William Gorgas, the chief sanitary officer for the canal construction, had a particularly large impact. He hypothesized that diseases were spread by the abundance of mosquitos native to the area, and ordered the fumigation of homes and the cleansing of water. This led to yellow fever being eradicated by November 1905, as well malaria rates falling dramatically. However, most of the laborers for the construction of the canal were brought in from the Caribbean, which created unprecedented racial and social tensions in the city.

During World War II, construction of military bases and the presence of larger numbers of U.S. military and civilian personnel brought about unprecedented levels of prosperity to the city. Panamanians had limited access, or no access at all, to many areas in the Canal Zone neighbouring the Panama city metropolitan area. Some of these areas were military bases accessible only to United States personnel. Some tensions arose between the people of Panama and the U.S. citizens living in the Panama Canal Zone. This erupted in the 9 January 1964 events, known as Martyrs' Day.


Travel to Panama City

*taken from Lonely Planet*

One of the most cosmopolitan capitals in Central America, Panama City is both vibrant metropolis and gateway to tropical escapes. Many worlds coexist here. Welcoming all, Panama is a regional hub of trade and immigration. The resulting cultural cocktail mix leads to a diverse melange of lifestyles and customs. Unflinchingly urban, the capital combines traffic jams, wayward taxis and casinos stacked between chic clubs and construction sites. A centre of international banking and trade, it has a skyline of shimmering glass and steel towers. In contrast, the peninsula of Casco Viejo has become a hip neighbourhood where cobblestones link boutique hotels with rooftop bars and crumbled ruins with pirate lore. Escape is never far away. Day-trip to sandy beaches (Pacific or Caribbean), admire the canal, or explore lush rainforests of howler monkeys, toucans and sloths.


Must See Sites

Panama Viejo; Founded on August 15, 1519, by Spanish conquistador Pedro Arias de Ávila, the city of Panamá was the first European settlement along the Pacific. For 150 years it flourished as Spain exported Peruvian gold and silver to Europe via Panamá. In 1671, Captain Henry Morgan sacked the city and it was relocated to the present-day Casco Viejo. Today much of Panamá Viejo lies buried under a poor residential neighborhood, though the ruins are a must-see. The center of power resided at the Casas Reales, a complex ringed by timber ramparts and separated from the city proper by a moat. Within the complex were the customs house, the royal treasury, a prison and the governor's house. Despite the obvious historical importance of the site, past governments have allowed sections of the property to be used as a landfill and for horse stables. Only scattered walls remain of the once-impressive structures.

Panama Canal; The Panama Canal is an artificial 82 km waterway in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. The canal cuts across the Isthmus of Panama and is a conduit for maritime trade.


Must Try Food & Drink

Hojaldres; Hojaldres is a traditional Panamanian breakfast bread consisting of fried dough made with flour, sugar, salt, and oil or butter. The texture of this bread is similar to donuts, but its taste is savory. The flat, round bread is usually topped with cheese, while a sausage stew known as salchichas guisadas is often served as a dip on the side.

Huevitos de leche; Huevitos de leche (lit. milk eggs) is a Panamanian specialty, a highly caloric sweet treat consisting of milk, sugar, and either cornstarch or flour. These treats are typically flavored with a cinnamon stick that is inserted into the pot while the other ingredients boil. When the concoction becomes golden brown in color, it is left to cool a bit and then it is formed into the shape of small eggs. These eggs are traditionally dusted with icing sugar and wrapped in colored paper. Huevitos de leche are great for picnics, children's parties, or as an accompaniment to afternoon tea.

Chicheme; Chicheme is a sweet drink especially popular in some countries of Central America, namely Panama and Costa Rica. Traditionally, it is made from maíz pilado (dried corn kernels) that are crushed in a mortar until there are only small pieces of corn left. The corn is washed and soaked overnight, after which it’s boiled with cinnamon sticks and condensed milk. Once the corn has become soft, nutmeg, vanilla, and sugar are added before the pot is removed from the heat and left to cool down.


Panama Travel Guides

Rough Guide

Lonely Planet


Hope you enjoyed today's post. It's a little shorter and doesn't have many pictures this time but I was running short on time.


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