Panama, officially called the Republic of Panama, is a country in Central America. Costa Rica to the west, Colombia to Ovest, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south border it. The capital and largest city is Panama City, whose metropolitan area is home to nearly half of the country’s 4 million people. Panama occupies an area of 75,420 km². Spanish is the official language.
Panama’s landscape is mostly mountainous, covered by rainforest and jungle. The highest point in Panama is Volcán Barú; an active stratovolcano with an elevation of 3,475 m (11,460 feet) is located in west, close to the border with Costa Rica. The city is the political and administrative center of the country, as well as a hub for international banking and commerce.
There are several theories about the origin of the name “Panama”. Some believe that the country was named after a commonly found species of tree (Sterculia apetala, the Panama tree). Others believe that the first settlers arrived in Panama in August, when butterflies abound, and that the name means “many butterflies” in an indigenous language.
The best-known version is that a fishing village and its nearby beach bore the name “Panamá”, which meant “an abundance of fish”. Captain Antonio Tello de Guzmán, while exploring the Pacific side in 1515, stopped in the small indigenous fishing town. In 1517 Don Gaspar De Espinosa, a Spanish lieutenant, decided to settle a post there. In 1519, Pedrarias Dávila decided to establish the Empire’s Pacific city in this site. The new settlement replaced Santa María La Antigua del Darién, which had lost its function within the Crown’s global plan after the beginning of the Spanish exploitation of the riches in the Pacific.
Blending all of the above together, Panamanians believe in general that the word Panama means “abundance of fish, trees and butterflies”. This is the official definition given in social studies textbooks approved by the Ministry of Education in Panama. However, others believe the word Panama comes from the Kuna word “bannaba” which means “distant” or “far away”.