Panama Country Overview
Where is Panama located? The state of Panama is located in Central America and is crossed by the Panama Canal. On the time zone map, Panama is in a world time zone that is 5 hours off Coordinated World Time and called “Eastern Standard Time”. In this time zone it is 5 hours earlier on the clocks than on the world clock (UTC-5). This time difference stays the same throughout the year as there is no daylight saving time change in Panama.
As of 2023, the latest population of Panama is 3,894,082, based on our calculation of the current data from UN (United Nations).
|Population growth rate||1.20%|
|Birth rate||17.90 births per 1,000 people|
|Overall life expectancy||78.13 years|
|Men life expectancy||75.35 years|
|Women life expectancy||81.04 years|
|65 years and above||8.57%|
|Median age||28.60 years|
|Gender ratio (Male to Female)||1.02|
|Population density||51.63 residents per km²|
|approx. 32% European-indigenous, 27% European-African, 14% Afro-indigenous, 10% European, 8% indigenous (Guaymi / Ngöbe-Buglé, Kuna, Emberá etc.), 5% African, 4% Asian descent|
|Catholics (Roman Catholic) 85%, Protestants 15%|
|Human Development Index (HDI)||0.795|
|HDI ranking||67th out of 194|
People in Panama
The majority of Panama’s residents are descendants of a mix of Native American indigenous people with European immigrants, mostly Spanish. Their share is 65 percent, in the west of the country even 90 percent.
12 percent belong to the indigenous peoples, mainly Guaymí and Kuna, as well as a minority the Emberá in the east (on the border with Colombia) and Teribe in the northwest (on the border with Costa Rica).
Guaymí live mainly in the northwest in the province of Ngöbe-Buglé. These are also other names of their people: Ngöbe and Buglé. The Kuna live on the northeastern Caribbean coast and the offshore islands in the province of Guna Yala.
In 2011, a dam was built that flooded large parts of Guaymí territories. The planned construction of the Barro Blanco hydropower plant would result in further flooding. Guaymí lose their land. Damage can also be expected for the environment.
Who are the Kuna?
The Kuna maintain their old traditions and preserve their culture. This is how they practice their traditional handicrafts, especially sewing molas. The fabrics are decorated with geometric patterns. Several layers of different colored fabrics are artfully sewn together.
7 percent of the population are white. 9 percent are black. They are either descendants of black slaves that the Spaniards brought here from Africa. Or they are descendants of immigrants from the West Indies, i.e. from the Caribbean, in particular from Barbados and Jamaica. They speak a Creole language based on English.
4 percent of the population are Asians. They came to the country to help build the Panama Canal or railroad lines.
- Children: Every woman in Panama has an average of 2.2 children. With us, every woman has an average of 1.4 children. So the families in Panama are bigger than ours.
- Urban and rural: 68 percent of Panama’s residents live in the city. The Pacific coast is the most densely populated. A third of all residents live in the metropolitan area around the capital Panama City on the Panama Canal.
Languages in Panama
Spanish is the official language in Panama. 93 percent of the population speak Spanish as their mother tongue. However, the Spanish spoken in Panama is different from Spanish in Spain. There are even some differences to the other Central American countries.
Panamanian Spanish has more in common with Caribbean Spanish, that is, with the Spanish spoken in Puerto Rico, Cuba and on the Caribbean coasts of Colombia and Venezuela.
It can be recognized primarily by the pronunciation of the s, which is more breathy, i.e. pronounced more like an h (for example in the word cascada, pronounced like cah-cada). The same applies to the g (before e and i) and the j, which are spoken in Spanish like the ch in “ach”, but are breathed in in Panama. In addition, the Spanish ch (spoken: “tsch”) is spoken by many speakers like “sch”.
There are also a number of words that are completely different in Panama, such as saying pelao instead of chico to child. The last r is often left out of the infinitive, for example reí instead of reír (laugh). A d in the middle of a word is often left out: comío instead of comido.
Incidentally, many Panamanians also speak English. That’s why you can communicate quite well with English.
The indigenous people also speak their own languages. The Kuna language and Ngäbere as the language of the Guaymí are the most widespread. Both belong to the Chibcha languages. Traditionally they were only spoken and did not exist as script. Examples of Ngäbere: Ti aro kwete. That means, “I eat rice.” Tikwe ñaka ye noaema means, “I didn’t do that.”
The Emberá, of whom about 7000 people live in the east of Panama, also speak their own language.
Religions in Panama
About 80 percent of the population of Panama are Catholic, 15 percent Protestant. 2 percent belong to the Baha’i community. Other minorities are Mormons, Buddhists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, Muslims and Hindus.