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Panama City, Panama

04 Mar, 2009

Panama City, Panama

Panama City is considered the most cosmopolitan among all capital cities in Central America. It is the capital and biggest city in the Republic of Panama, the southernmost country in North America. For the past 8 years, the city has been on International Living Magazine’s list of top 5 preferred retirement places in the world. It was also selected as the American Capital of Culture in 2003.
This urban center is a gateway to Panama’s vast natural riches. It has always been a vibrant tourism destination because of its scenic wonders, bustling nightlife and other interesting features. A thriving hub for international trade and banking, Panama City mesmerizes through its sultry skyline, which is adorned with shining steel towers and shimmering glass. Many observers assert that the city’s view is reminiscent of Miami, giving credence to Panama City’s nickname as ‘Miami of the south.’
The architectural diversity is equaled by the city’s cultural diversity. Most urbanites hail from the Caribbean, Asia, Latin America, Europe and North America. The ethnic diversity gives way to diverse gastronomic experiences. Restaurants range to offer distinct cuisines and dishes mostly unique to the city, like bluefin tuna sushi, Panamanian-style ceviche, chicken kebabs and tikka masala.
Panama City is the undisputed social and political center in the country, being home to about half of Panamanian population. The geographical position, commercial potential and opportunities make the city a hot spot for immigrants coming from all over the world. The current population is a mix of diverse cultures and origins, but everyone seems to contribute to how interesting the city has become. Panama City has its gaze firmly fixed to the outside world, making it among the most open, developmental and sophisticated in the region.

Geography

Its geographic location is very strategic, making it more open and conducive for trade and industry. Panama City is situated in Panama’s Pacific coast, to the east of Panama Canal. On the side of the city, adjoining the canal, are lush and forested mountains that rise victoriously. The southwest is bordered by San Felipe, an old city center flooding with 19th century mansions and colonial churches. To the city’s northeast emerge commercial and banking district El Cangrejo’s splendid skyscrapers. In the east can be found Panama Viejo ruins, the first even European city established on the Americas’ Pacific coast.
Because of its geographic location, Panama City has a distinct rainy season, which lasts from May until December. The dry season comes in January to April, making the months conducive for beach vacationers. Many investors and business vacationers prefer the weather in the city. In numerous ways, the atmosphere in Panama City is closer to and more similar to the mighty trading Asian cities of Singapore and Hong Kong. The place is an effective base from where all other places in the country could be visited through day-trips.

History

Panama City was founded by Spanish colonial administrator Pedro Arias de Avila on August 15, 1519. After its establishment, the city had immediately turned into a launching point for other conquest and exploration, including that of Peru. It also served as a transit area for silver and gold headed towards Spain. Henry Morgan, a Welsh pirate, attacked and looted old Panama City in 1671. His band of goons ruined the city by fire. Such ruins still remain (now called Panama la Vieja) and have become one of the interesting tourist attractions. In 1673, Panama City was rebuilt in a new site, about 5 miles to the southwest of the former location.
Construction of US military bases was completed in the city during World War II. The presence of the bases logically brought about further prosperity to Panama City. Since then, Panamanians have had limited access to the Canal Zone that neighbors the metropolitan area. Thus, in the middle of the 20th century, tensions broke out between locals and US citizens who live in the canal-zone.
In the 1980s, the city emerged as a global banking center. In the same way, Panama City became a money-laundering area. In 1989, the US invaded Panama to depose Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega. The US helped fund construction of portions of the city, which were ruined by the tension.

Tourist destination

Panama City will not be very popular among tourists if not for its numerous sights and tourism destinations. On top of the list will be the archaeological site of Panama Viejo. As mentioned, the old city was the first European settlement across the Americas’ Pacific coast. The city was laid out on rectilinear grids, typical for a planned town. It was abandoned in 17th century but up to this day, the ruins of the original city still stand to catch attention of history enthusiasts.
The Darien National Park is interesting because it forms a bridge connecting two continents. The park features exceptional types of habitats, which rise over rocky coasts, sandy beaches, swamps, mangroves and even upland and lowland tropical forests. Currently, there are two Indian American tribes that live within the territory of the park.
Restaurants and world-class hotels add to Panama City’s attractions. Particularly popular among vacationers are structures situated in Casco Viejo (also called San Felipe and Casco Antiguo). They include Las Bovedas, Plaza de la Catedral and Museo del Canal Interoceanico. Arts and performance enthusiasts could not miss Teatro Nacional, which has seats to accommodate up to 800 guests. Palacio de las Garzas is the presidential palace that had housed numerous herons.
The Amador Causeway is an entrance to the Pacific canal. It is currently being developed as a significant tourism center. Within the area will also rise The Bridge of Life Museum, which was designed by US architect Frank Gehry, who also designed the Disney Concert Center and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.
No wonder, if the world would have to choose its sole capital, Panama City, the Isthmus of Panama, will certainly be on the list of selections. Truly, no other city in the Americas could match the sheer energy, cosmopolitanism and diversity of Panama City. It is simply polyglot and very post-modern prior to its time.

Panama City, Panama

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