Top 10 Things You Didn't Know About Panama
The Panama hat is really from Ecuador – its name comes from the fact that the hats passed through Panama en route to other destinations around the world.
By the 1840s, tens of thousands of these tropical hats were being sent from Ecuador to Panama. The hat became even more popular when U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt was photographed wearing a Panama hat while inspecting the Panama Canal construction in 1906.
Geologists believe that the formation of the Isthmus of Panama – the narrow strip of land joining the North and South America – is one of the most important geologic events in the Earth's history.
Three million years ago, the formation of a land bridge between the two continents caused currents in the Atlantic and Pacific to be completely rerouted, creating the ocean current patterns we see today. Another outcome was that plants and animals could more easily migrate from one continent to the other.
More than one million ships have passed through the Panama Canal since it opened in 1914.
Built between 1904 and 1914 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Panama Canal is one of the world's greatest engineering accomplishments. A system of locks raises ships 85 feet (26 meters) above sea level during their 48-mile (77-kilometer) journey through the canal. About 14,000 ships pass through the canal each year.
The lowest toll charged to go through the Panama Canal was $0.36 – paid by adventurer Richard Halliburton, who swam through the canal in 1928.
All vessels using the canal pay a toll that is based on vessel type, size, and cargo. Richard Halliburton obtained permission to swim through the canal, a feat that took him took 10 days with 50 hours of swimming time [PDF, 2.57 MB]. Halliburton was charged an all-time low toll of $0.36, which was based on his body weight.
On 31 December 1999, the United States ceded jurisdiction of the Panama Canal – marking the first time in its almost 100-year history as an independent country that Panama had full control of everything within its national boundaries.
The 1977 Torrijos-Carter Treaties set the transfer in motion. The U.S. and Panama operated the canal jointly from 1977 to 1999. Just before the end of the 20th century, Panama assumed sovereignty of the canal in what was a momentous event in the country's history.
Panama's Darien Gap is the only break in the Pan-American highway, the longest highway in the world. It is nearly 30,000 miles (48,000 kilometers) of road running from Alaska to the tip of Argentina.
The Darien region is an expansive tropical forest between Panama and Colombia that spans from north to south, and is between 60 to 80 kilometers (37 to 50 miles) wide. The jungle is nearly impenetrable – anyone who wants to cross the Darien Gap successfully must go by boat.
Panama City's Biomuseo, which highlights the contributions of Panama to the Earth's biodiversity, is the only structure in Latin America designed by architect Frank Gehry.
Panama's rainforests are among the world's most biologically diverse. The Biomuseo, which opened in October 2014, focuses on how the history of Panama has affected the ecological landscape of the Western Hemisphere.
Panama City has a rainforest entirely within its city limits.
Panama has the largest rainforest in the Western Hemisphere, second in size only to the Amazon region. In Panama City, the Parque Natural Metropolitano de Panamá provides 265 hectares (655 acres) of rainforest with hiking trails popular with those who want to experience Panama's wilderness.
Panama is home to five UNESCO World Heritage sites – two recognized for their cultural heritage and two for their natural heritage.
Founded in 1519, Panamá Viejo is the oldest European settlement on the Pacific coast of the Americas, and is the original capital of Panama. Portobelo-San Lorenzo, military fortifications built by Spain on the Caribbean side of Panama, contain excellent examples of 17th and 18th-century military architecture. Three natural sites are also listed: Coiba National Park, with its special zone of marine protection, Darien National Park and its variety of habitats, and the Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves / La Amistad National Park along the Colombian border.
On 10 October 2017, Panama qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup – the first time the country has ever qualified for the tournament.
To qualify, Panama defeated Costa Rica 2-1 in Panama City. This victory, combined with the loss of the United States to Trinidad and Tobago, resulted in Los Caneleros (Canal Men) reaching the World Cup. The next day, Juan Carlos Valera, President of Panama, declared a national holiday in celebration.