Panama...Warm, Tropical...But More...
silhouetted against the golden sky of a setting sun. Yes, Panama is all
those romantic things. Its capital is the most modern city south of the
U.S. If this is the third world, I missed the first somewhere in my
Panama City is a world-leading financial center with some 120 banks, many with competing glass and steel monuments to commerce.
Panama is shopping,
U.S. style. Many of the stores found on Main Street, U.S.A., are here
too. After all, the Panama Canal was run by Americans for almost 100
years, and the American military had a major presence here until 1999.
once had a reputation as part of the pipeline for Colombian drugs. It
suffered under the savage dictatorship of Manuel Noriega, until he was
captured and imprisoned by American troops in December, 1989.
country has had a peaceful democracy ever since. Like Costa Rica, it
has no military. Money is spent on education instead, and its people
have a high level of literacy. And if you need medical attention here,
your doctor is likely to have been trained in the U.S. or Europe.
is silver sand on the Caribbean side and black volcanic sand on the
Pacific side. It has the second-largest volcanic crater in the world
inside which nestles a popular tourist and retirement town. (The
largest is the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania.)
is dessert and mountaintop. It can be humid all year, or like spring
for all 12 months, depending on where you are in this small country.
Panama's world-class hotels and resorts, the best roads in Central
America by far (many were built by Americans). And Brinks gives the
country a top rating for personal safety.
tales of pirates, of Spanish treasure and the forts that tried to
protect it; it is jungle and monkeys and parrots. It has more birds
than all of North America put together, some 960 different species.
There is even a jungle preserve right inside the city limits. And Darien National Park on the Colombian border is a jungle of monstrous size and one of the world’s richest wildlife habitats.
thin strip of land joining the northern and southern halves of the
Americas (yet running east to west) provides a 50-foot wide divide
between the worlds two largest oceans.
its narrowness has provided the ingredients for much of its history.
The Spanish used it as a land bridge to transship Inca treasure en
route to Spain. This attracted pirates whose exploits here made them
household names. The rest, as they say, is history.
French tried to build a canal, and went broke. The Americans, who
proved the value of the isthmus during the Gold Rush, succeeded where
the French had failed.
today, the Panama Canal, now run by Panamanians, produces much of the
country’s wealth. More shipping is registered in Panama than in
anywhere else on earth. She is a land of diversity. Its people are
friendly. If your car breaks down, runs out of gas, or gets a flat,
within a few minutes someone will stop to help. Try that in Manhattan!
language is Spanish, but in the major hotels and many places in the
capital, the people who serve you speak English. And if they don’t,
there’s sure to be a helpful English-speaking person within earshot who
will offer assistance. Currency: the U.S. dollar since 1904. What could
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