Panama City facts for kids

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Panama City
Ciudad de Panamá
City
Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de Panamá
Top to bottom, left to right: Panama Canal, Skyline, Bridge of the Americas, The bovedas, Casco Viejo of Panama (spanish for “old quarter”) and Metropolitan Cathedral of Panama.
Top to bottom, left to right: Panama Canal, Skyline, Bridge of the Americas, The bovedas, Casco Viejo of Panama (spanish for “old quarter”) and Metropolitan Cathedral of Panama.
Flag of Panama City
Flag
Coat of arms of Panama City
Coat of arms
District Panamá
Foundation August 15, 1519
Founded by Pedro Arias de Ávila
Area
 • City 275 km2 (106 sq mi)
 • Metro 2,560.8 km2 (988.7 sq mi)
Elevation 2 m (7 ft)
Population (2013)
 • City 880,691
 • Density 3,203/km2 (7,656/sq mi)
 • Urban 430,299
Area code(s) (+507) 2
HDI (2007) 0.870 – very high
Website mupa.gob.pa

Panama City 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 August 15, 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.

On January 28, 1671, the original city (see Panamá Viejo) was destroyed by a fire when privateer Henry Morgan sacked and set fire to it. The city was formally reestablished two years later on January 21, 1673, on a peninsula located 8 km (5 miles) from the original settlement. The site of the previously devastated city is still in ruins.

History

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The Old Quarter of Panama City, circa 1903

The city was founded on August 15, 1519, by Pedro Arias de Ávila, also known as Pedrarias Dávila. Within a few years of its founding, the city became a launching point for the exploration and conquest of Peru and a transit point for gold and silver headed back to Spain through the Isthmus. In 1671 Henry Morgan with a band of 1400 men attacked and looted the city, which was subsequently destroyed by fire. The ruins of the old city still remain and are a popular tourist attraction known as Panamá la Vieja (Old Panama). The city was rebuilt in 1673 in a new location approximately 5 miles (8 km) southwest of the original city. This location is now known as the Casco Viejo (Old Quarter) of the city.

One year before the start of the California Gold Rush, the Panama Railroad Company was formed, but the railroad did not begin full operation until 1855. Between 1848 and 1869, the year the first transcontinental railroad was completed in the United States, about 375,000 persons crossed the isthmus from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and 225,000 in the opposite direction. This traffic greatly increased the prosperity of the city during that period.

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.

The Panama Canal is one of the main attractions to the Panama City area. The Centennial Bridge spans the area near Gold Hill on the left and Contractor Hill on the right. This is the site of the highest elevation of the Panama Canal construction.

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 neighboring 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 January 9, 1964 events, known as Martyrs' Day.

In the late 1970s through the 1980s the city of Panama became an international banking center, bringing a lot of undesirable attention as an international money-laundering locale. In 1989 after nearly a year of tension between the United States and Panama, President George H. W. Bush ordered the invasion of Panama to depose General Manuel Noriega, the country's de facto dictator. As a result, a portion of the El Chorrillo neighborhood, which consisted mostly of old wood-framed buildings dating back to the 1900s (though still a large slum area), was destroyed by fire. In 1999, the United States officially transferred control of the Panama Canal Zone to Panama, which remains in control today.

The city of Panama is still a banking center, although with very visible controls in the flow of cash. Shipping is handled through port facilities in the area of Balboa operated by the Hutchison Whampoa Company of Hong Kong and through several ports on the Caribbean side of the isthmus. Balboa, which is located within the greater Panama metropolitan area, was formerly part of the Panama Canal Zone, and the administration of the former Panama Canal Zone was headquartered there.

Geography

Panamá is located between the Pacific Ocean and tropical rain forest in the northern part of Panama. The Parque Natural Metropolitano (Metropolitan Nature Park), stretching from Panama City along the Panama Canal, has unique bird species and other animals, such as tapir, puma, and caimans. At the Pacific entrance of the canal is the Centro de Exhibiciones Marinas (Marine Exhibitions Center), a research center for those interested in tropical marine life and ecology, managed by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Tropical forests around Panama are vital for the functioning of the Panama Canal, providing it with the water required for its operation. Due to the canal's importance to the Panamanian economy, tropical forests around the canal have been kept in an almost pristine state; the canal is thus a rare example of a vast engineering project in the middle of a forest that helped to preserve that forest. Along the western side of the canal is the Parque Nacional Soberanía (Sovereignty National Park), which includes the Summit botanical gardens and a zoo. The best known trail in this national park is Pipeline Road, popular among birdwatchers.

Nearly 500 rivers lace Panama's rugged landscape. Most are unnavigable; many originate as swift highland streams, meander in valleys, and form coastal deltas. However, the Río Chepo and the Río Chagres, both within the boundaries of the city, work as sources of hydroelectric power.

The Río Chagres is one of the longest and most vital of the approximately 150 rivers that flow into the Caribbean. Part of this river was dammed to create Gatun Lake, which forms a major part of the transit route between the locks near each end of the canal. Both Gatun Lake and Madden Lake (also filled with water from the Río Chagres) provide hydroelectricity to the former Canal Zone area. The Río Chepo, another major source of hydroelectric power, is one of the more than 300 rivers emptying into the Pacific.

Climate

Under the Köppen climate classification, Panama City has a tropical savanna climate (Köppen Aw), a little drier than a tropical monsoon climate. It sees 1,900 mm (74.8 in) of precipitation annually. The wet season spans from May through December, and the dry season spans from January through April. Temperatures remain constant throughout the year, averaging around 27 °C (81 °F). Sunshine is subdued in Panama because it lies in the Intertropical Convergence Zone, where there is a nearly continual cloud formation, even during the dry season.

Cityscape

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Casco Viejo seen from Cerro Ancón

Architecture

Panama's old quarter (or Casco Viejo, Panama) features many architectural styles, from Spanish colonial buildings to French and Antillean townhouses built during the construction of the Panama Canal. The more modern areas of the city have many high-rise buildings, which together form a very dense skyline. There are more than 110 high-rise projects under construction, with 127 already built. The city holds the 45th place in the world by high-rise buildings count.

The Centennial Bridge that crosses the Panama Canal earned the American Segmental Bridge Institute prize of excellence, along with seven other bridges in the Americas.

Neighborhoods

The city is located in Panama District, although its metropolitan area also includes some populated areas on the opposite side of the Panama Canal. As in the rest of the country, the city is divided into corregimientos, in which there are many smaller boroughs. The old quarter, known as the Casco Viejo, is located in the corregimiento of San Felipe. San Felipe and twelve other corregimientos form the urban center of the city, including Santa Ana, El Chorrillo, Calidonia, Curundú, Ancón, Bella Vista, Bethania, San Francisco, Juan Diaz, Pueblo Nuevo, Parque Lefevre, and Río Abajo.

The skyline of Panama City from Ancon Hill. 2008
Punta Paitilla view from Cinta Costera/Coastal Belt (2012).

Economy

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Construction boom in Panama City.
Panama City-3
Panama City financial district

As the economic and financial center of the country, Panama City's economy is service-based, heavily weighted toward banking, commerce, and tourism. The economy depends significantly on trade and shipping activities associated with the Panama Canal and port facilities located in Balboa. There are around eighty banks in the city, at least fifteen of which are local.

Panama City is responsible for the production of approximately 55% of the country's GDP. This is because most Panamanian businesses and premises are located in the city and its metro area. It is a stopover for other destinations in the country, as well as a transit point and tourist destination in itself.

Tourism is one of the most important economic activities in terms of revenue generation. This sector of the economy has seen a great deal of growth since the transfer of the Panama Canal Zone at the end of the twentieth century.

Demographics

The city proper has approximately 880,691 inhabitants in 23 boroughs. The inhabitants of Panama City are commonly referred to as capitalinos and include large numbers of Afro-Panamanians, mestizos, and mulattos, with notable white and Asian minorities. There is a great deal of cultural diversity within the city, which manifests itself in the wide variety of languages commonly spoken, such as German, Portuguese, French, Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew and English, in addition to Spanish.

Culture

World Heritage Sites

Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo and Historic District of Panamá-111606
Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo and Historic District of Panamá

Panamá Viejo

Panamá Viejo ("Old Panama") is the name used for the architectural vestiges of the Monumental Historic Complex of the first Spanish city founded on the Pacific coast of the Americas by Pedro Arias de Avila on August 15, 1519. This city was the starting point for the expeditions that conquered the Inca Empire in Peru in 1532. It was a stopover point on one of the most important trade routes in the history of the American continent, leading to the famous fairs of Nombre de Dios and Portobelo, where most of the gold and silver that Spain took from the Americas passed through.

Casco Viejo or Casco Antiguo

Built and settled in 1671 after the destruction of Panama Viejo by the privateer Henry Morgan, the historic district of Panama City (known as Casco Viejo, Casco Antiguo, or San Felipe) was conceived as a walled city to protect its settlers against future pirate attacks. It was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2003.

Casco Antiguo displays a mix of architectural styles that reflect the country's cultural diversity: Caribbean, Republican, art deco, French, and colonial architecture mix in a site comprising around 800 buildings. Most of Panama City's main monuments are located in Casco Antiguo, including the Salón Bolivar, the National Theater (founded in 1908), Las Bóvedas, and Plaza de Francia. There are also many Catholic buildings, such as the Metropolitan Cathedral, the La Merced Church, and the St. Philip Neri Church. The distinctive golden altar at St. Joseph Church was one of the few items saved from Panama Viejo during the 1671 pirate siege. It was buried in mud during the siege and then secretly transported to its present location.

Undergoing redevelopment, the old quarter has become one of the city's main tourist attractions, second only to the Panama Canal. Both government and private sectors are working on its restoration. President Ricardo Martinelli built an extension to the Cinta Costera maritime highway viaduct in 2014 named "Cinta Costera 3" around the Casco Antiguo.

Before the Cinta Costera 3 project was built there were protests. Much of the controversy surrounding the project involved the possibility that Casco Viejo would lose its World Heritage status. On June 28, 2012, UNESCO decided that Casco Viejo will not be put on the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger.

Tourism

Tourism in Panama City includes many different historic sites and locations related to the operation of the Panama Canal. A few of these sites are the following:

  • Las Bóvedas ("The Vaults"), a waterfront promenade jutting out into the Pacific;
  • The National Institute of Culture Building and the French embassy across from it;
  • The Cathedral at Plaza de la Catedral;
  • Teatro Nacional (National Theatre of Panama), an intimate performance center with outstanding natural acoustics and seating for about 800 guests;
  • Museo del Canal Interoceánico (Interoceanic Canal Museum); and
  • Palacio de las Garzas (Heron's Palace), the official name of the presidential palace, named for the numerous herons that inhabit the building.
  • Miraflores Visitors Center at the Miraflores set of Locks on the Pacific Side, with a museum and a simulator of a ship cruising the canal.
  • Calzada de Amador (Amador Causeway), a land-bridge built with rocks excavated during the construction of the Panama Canal.

In addition to these tourist attractions, Panama City offers many different options when it comes to hotel accommodations, including the first Waldorf Astoria hotel to open in Latin America, and many small boutique style hotels that have smaller numbers of guest rooms and offer a more intimate vacation. Nightlife in the city is centered around the Calle Uruguay and Casco Viejo neighborhoods. These neighborhoods contain a variety of different bars and nightclubs that cater to the tourists visiting the city.

Sports

Throughout the 20th century, Panama City has excelled in boxing, baseball, basketball, and soccer. These sports have produced famous athletes such as Roberto Durán, Rommel Fernández, Rolando Blackman, Julio Dely Valdés, Mariano Rivera, and Rod Carew. Today, these sports have clubs and associations that manage their development in the city. Panama Metro is the city's baseball team. There are boxing training centers in different gyms throughout the city's neighborhoods. There are also many football clubs, such as:

  • Alianza
  • Chorrillo
  • Plaza Amador
  • Tauro
  • Chepo
  • San Francisco F.C.

The city has four professional teams in the country's second level league, Liga Nacional de Ascenso:

  • Atlético Nacional
  • Deportivo Genesis
  • Millenium
  • Río Abajo

There are two main stadiums in Panama City, the National Baseball Stadium (also known as Rod Carew Stadium) and the Rommel Fernández Stadium, with capacities of 27,000 and 32,000 respectively. Additionally, the Roberto Durán Arena has a capacity of 18,000.

Healthcare

Panama City is home to at least 14 hospitals and an extensive network of public and private clinics, including the Hospital Santo Tomás, Hospital del Niño, Complejo Hospitalario Arnulfo Arias Madrid, Centro Médico Paitilla, Hospital Santa Fé, Hospital Nacional, Clinica Hospital San Fernando, and Hospital Punta Pacifica.

About 45% of the country's physicians are located in Panama City.

Transportation

Panama's international airport, Tocumen International Airport is located on the eastern outskirts of the city's metropolitan area. Two other airports serve Panama City: Panamá Pacífico, previously the Howard Air Force Base, and Marcos A. Gelabert, previously the Albrook Air Force Base. Pacífico serves VivaColombia and Wingo, while Marcos A. Gelabert Airport is the main hub for AirPanama. All other flights are served by Tocumen.

There are frequent traffic jams in Panama City due to the high levels of private transport ownership per kilometre of traffic lane. In an attempt to curb traffic jams, President Ricardo Martinelli has brought forward the citywide Panama Metro, initially 14 km (9 mi) long, stretching across the city.

The bus terminal located in Ancon offers buses in and out of the city. Bus service is one of the most widely used forms of transportation in Panama. The terminal receives thousands of passengers daily from locations like David, Chiriqui, and the central provinces of Herrera and Los Santos. The terminal also receives international passengers from Central America via the Pan-American Highway.

Panama City offers transportation services through yellow taxis. Taxis do not use a meter to measure fares, instead using a zone system for fares that is published by the Autoridad de Transito y Transporte Terrestre], Panama's transit authority.

Twin towns – sister cities

Panama City is twinned with:

Union of Ibero-American Capital Cities

Panama City is part of the Union of Ibero-American Capital Cities from 12 October 1982 establishing brotherly relations with the following cities:

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