Saturday, January 24, 2009

People & Country Observations

Kuna Indians escaping from the sun

Plaza in Casco Viejo

I had a comment a couple of posts back asking for our impressions and contacts with the people of Panama. By the way, you are all invited to make comments as I enjoy the feedback. Our contact with the people really is as any tourist might have. We talk with the restaurant waiters, people we bump into in our building, taxi drivers, store clerks, and people that we are asking questions of. Our first realization was that even with nearly 100 years of a huge American presence in Panama, it would seem that very few people are fluent in English.

My suspicion is that this is probably due to the explosion of the population. There has been a lot of immigration from other Central American and South American countries. As with large cities around the world there also have been a lot of rural citizens moving to the city to find employment. There are about 3.2 million people in Panama, and more than half live in Panama City. The population is very young, the median age being 26. You see a lot of children and their families. As this blog continues along, you will see a lot of photos of children, as Mary Ann particularly enjoys kid photos.

The complexion of the average Panamanian is relatively dark, it being a country of mestizo, a mix of indigenous natives and Spanish. The white population is about 10%. As I write this we are watching U.S. television waiting for the inauguration of Barack Obama. What a wonderful time for our country and the world, to make positive steps in race relations. Panama is enjoying a strong democracy and seems to be very prosperous. With their taking over the canal in 1999 it has made a huge difference in their self esteem and prosperity. The revenues from the canal are reported to be 40% of the countries gross national product.

Presently in Panama, they are in the middle of a Presidential and National Assembly election, which culminates May 3, 2009. There are political signs all over the city for the presidential and assembly candidates. The incumbent Martin Torrijos is not a candidate for re-election. Let freedom ring. As we enjoy our additional weeks in Panama I will bring you my impressions and observations.

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