TOURISM & CULTURE
Panama's culture is a blend of African, American Indian, North American, and Spanish influences, which are expressed in its traditional arts and crafts, music, religion, sports, and cuisine. Panamanian music is popular throughout Latin America, and the country is known as well for its many festivals. Other aspects of traditional culture are well preserved, especially by the country’s Indigenous Peoples. Panama is a cultural melting pot, adapting elements from a wide variety of sources and valuing innovation as much as the good things of the past.
The cosmopolitan urban culture near the canal contrasts with the rural culture of the savannas. The latter area, with its cattle ranches and horsemanship, is a center of Hispanic tradition. Old folk songs and handicrafts are preserved there—for example, around the towns of Chitré and Las Tablas. The territories of the various Indigenous groups are also culturally distinctive, each with its language and handicrafts, such as the bright smocks (molas) decorated with reverse appliqué panels worn by Guna women and the netted carrying bags made by the Ngäbe-Buglé. The Guna have a strong tradition of storytelling (oral literature), including epic poetry that—when written— can extend for hundreds or thousands of lines. Other areas of cultural interest include the Caribbean islands of Almirante Bay, with their Antillean customs.
Panama City’s Historic District is known for its colonial architecture, which dates to the 17th century. In 1997 the district was designated a World Heritage site, as were the old Caribbean coastal fortifications of Portobelo and San Lorenzo in 1980.
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