Panama’s culture is rich and filled with a diverse population. In 2011 the official census estimated the population being over 337,000. Two-thirds of this population lives in urban areas, the most prominent one being Panama City. The culture is influenced by the diverse population, from the intact indigenous groups to the steady stream of immigrants over the last 500 years. Immigration was due primarily to the commercial transit, many people came or were forced to come to build the canal and railroad. The majority of immigrants came from China and Africa; other groups came from India, the Middle East, and Europe.
Panamanians hold a lot of national pride for their country and are quick to tell you how much they love it and why. Citizens feel strongly towards their country and have a popular saying about it “Puente del Mundo, Corazon del universe,” which means ‘bridge of the world, the heart of the universe.’ Along with a strong sense of national pride, Panamanians have other strong feelings towards their family. Much of the culture comes from Spanish origins.
The most important social unit is the family. Panamanians take care of their family and children are raised by the family and genuinely respect their elders. It is not uncommon for multiple generations to live under the same roof with the younger generation taking care of their elders. Panamanians typically live at home well into their twenties and thirties, or until they get married. Family occasions, such as birthdays and baptisms, are considered very important and attended by the majority of the family.
An Accepting Nation
Panama is considered a very accepting country of different nationalities, religions, and lifestyles. People are treated with respect and are polite. Many Panamanians place an importance on their personal appearance and hygiene. Most try to maintain a neat, conservative appearance in public. The culture is also distinguished by the perception of time, Panamanians embrace tranquil, meaning calm or peaceful.
Cuisine is filling and healthy. The majority of the food relies heavily on rice, beans, red meat, chicken, pork, and fish. The two most common vegetables are the yucca and plantains. Yucca is root vegetable that is typically served cut into small cubes and then deep-fried. Plantains are commonly known two ways, platanos maduros (ripe plantains) and patacones (green plantains). A staple food is rice and beans; these are served alongside nearly everything. They are usually prepared in a variety of ways making them tasty with the use of herbs and spices. While in Panama you will also find excellent seafood. The most common are ceviche, raw and marinated in limejuice. You can also find red snapper, crab, shrimp, squid, octopus, and lobster.
Meat and Vegetable Dinner
You can find a variety of meat dishes, such as carne asado (roast meat), and sancocho, which is a spicy stew usually made with chicken and vegetables. While in Panama vegetarians and vegans should not have a problem with Panama cuisine. Meat is usually prominent in most meals, but a meal of rice and beans can be ordered almost anywhere. Vegetarians and vegans worried about eating any meat product should be warned that many times plantains or yucca can be fried in lard.
There is an abundance of fresh tropical fruit, such as pineapples and mangos. Many of these fresh fruits are blended into delicious juice. These fresh fruits are usually mixed with a little bit of sugar and milk or water to create what is known as a chichi. The common fruits you will find is pineapple, strawberry, watermelon, mango, melon, and tamarind.