Panama Essay, Research Paper
Spanish 111 March 26, 1999 Panama The Republic of Panama is located in Central America between North and South America. Its position between two continents and separating two oceans has had a major part in Panama s history to the present day. Covered with large areas of rain forest, Panama has two long coastlines with numerous islands and bays. Panama s population is largely of mixed Spanish, black, and Native American descent, but also includes immigrants from many parts of the world. Most of Panama s people and economic activity are located in the central region surrounding the Panama Canal, a waterway that has played a major role in the country s history. Due to the high traffic of the Panama Canal, the area has also developed a large diversity in its plant and animal life. Located at the connection of Central and South America, Panama forms a land bridge between the two continents. Panama is within the tropics, and about half its area is covered with rain forest. The rest has been converted to farmland and pastures or lies in the semiarid Azuero Peninsula. Panama s climate is warm and humid, moderated by the two oceans of its coastlines. Panama has several important rivers. The Chagres River drains a watershed of 806,000 acres north of Panama City and flows into the Caribbean just west of Col n. The San Pablo River in the south central portion of the country drains into the Montijo Gulf. Panama s largest river, the Tuira, flows south into the San Miguel Gulf, draining much of the Dari n region. Fourth is the Chepo River, which flows southwest into the Pacific near Panama City. None of these rivers are navigable by deep-draft ships. Most of Panama has a hot and humid tropical climate, with cooler temperatures in higher elevations. Fortunately, Panama lies outside the paths of Caribbean and Eastern Pacific hurricanes. The average temperatures in coastal areas are 23. to 27. C (73. to 81. F); in higher elevations they average about 19. C (66. F). Panama s Dari n jungle is the largest tropical rain forest in the Western Hemisphere outside the Amazon Basin. The entire north coast of Panama is densely forested and contains more than 2000 species of tropical plants. This also supports a wide array of animals including ocelots, sloths, armadillos, pumas, anteaters, spider and howler monkeys, deer, alligators, crocodiles, and many snakes. It has one of the most diverse populations of birds in the world. Due to its unique location, Panama has several animal species found nowhere else, such as the golden tree frog and giant tree sloth. Panama has a population of nearly 2.8 million, up from 2.4 million in 1990. The population is mainly along the Panama Canal and in the cities on either end of the passage. It is a highly diverse society, descended from native people and immigrants over thousands of years. The largest cities are Panama City, with a population of 458,490, and its suburb of San Miguelito (282,420). Together with nearby Tocumen, Arraij n, and La Chorrera, they form a metropolitan area of nearly one million people. Seventy percent of Panamanians are mestizos, people of mixed European and Native American descent, or mulattoes, those of European and African heritage. Blacks, mostly from the West Indies, make up about 14 percent of the population, whites are about 10 percent, and Native Americans about 6 percent. Spanish is the official language of Panama. It is spoken by all but a few Native Americans. In addition, about a quarter of the population also speak English, the language of the West Indian minority, the canal administration, and the international business community.
Education is available between the ages of 6 and 15 and is provided free by the government through the university level. The government spent 5.4 percent of its budget on education in 1993. In the early 1990 s, about 25,000 elementary and high school faculty taught 554,000 students throughout the country, and 91 percent of elementary-age children were enrolled. Panama has one of the highest literacy rates in the region, about 90 percent.Panama s location has made it a crossroads for trade and transit. This role assumed worldwide significance in the 20th Century with the completion of the Panama Canal. In the 1880 s, a French company lost a fortune and thousands of lives trying unsuccessfully to dig a sea-level canal. In 1903, the United States government provided aid to what is now Panama. The United States then acquired permission from the new republic to build a canal. The canal was completed in 1914 and represented a great engineering achievement. In addition, it dominated Panama s economy for decades and tied it closely to the United States. The treaty signed gave the United States control over the canal and important segments of Panama s territory and economy. The Panamanians were prevented from controlling the facility that was crucial for their well-being and national development. From this point on, the Panamanians struggled to benefit from the Panama Canal and the property through which it passed During that time Panama developed its own unique culture and system of government and built an economy that did not depend solely on the canal. Issues concerning the canal caused tension between the United States and the Republic of Panama through much of the 20th century. In the 1900 s, Panama and the United States renegotiated the agreement, which states that Panama will gain control of the Panama Canal on December 31, 1999. The new treaty places Panama s goal of controlling the canal, and its own destiny, finally within reach.