Panama: A Pristine Country on the ‘Bridge of the World’
Situated in the Isthmus of Panama in Central America, the Republic of Panama is bordered by Colombia to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the south, Costa Rica to the west, and the Caribbean Sea to the north. The S-shaped country links North America and South America. The Panama Canal, located in the central part of Panama, connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean, occupying a strategically important position. As it is the boundary between South America and North America, it is called the “Bridge of the World.”
Panama boasts abundant natural resources. Its most striking characteristic is its more than 400 rivers within its territory. Additionally, it has abundant mineral resources such as gold, silver, copper, iron, mercury, bauxite, manganese, salt and oil.
Panama enjoys a stable political situation and a sound momentum in economic development. The shipping industry based in the Panama Canal, the role played by Panama as a regional financial centre, the Colon Free Trade Zone and tourist industry form the backbone of Panama's economy. The developed transit trade occupies an important position in the national economy. As the volume of the trade freight transport through the Canal accounts for five percent of the global total volume, the Panama Canal plays an important role in the world economy, and Panama has become a famous place for the registration of offshore companies. Tourism has become another mainstay in the economy of Panama. Since 2010, the country has intensified its efforts to develop the sight-seeing industry. The local government attaches importance to investing in the tourist industry in an effort to improve it. The Panama Canal, the Bridge of the Americas, the International Financial Centre, the San Blas Islands the Isla del Rey and Contadora Island, which is known as the “Pearl Island” of Panama, are all prestigious international tourist resorts. Of all Panama's foreign exchange revenues, those generated from the tourist industry are next only to those generated from the Panama Canal and Colon Free Trade Zone.
At the third “Colourful World—cultural Exhibition of Countries along the Belt and Road” event, the traditional handicrafts and food with distinctive local characteristics were displayed at Panama's exhibition booth, including Mola embroidery, Panama straw hats, rum, coffee and traditional Panamanian clothes. The staffer in charge of the booth explained that Mola embroidery, originating with the native Kuna tribe, is arguably the best representative of culture and handicrafts in Panama. It is a kind of traditional fabric handicraft using a reverse appliqué technique. Several layers of cloth are sewn together; the complicated design is then formed by cutting away parts of each layer. As Kuna people live in jungles, Mola embroidery often depicts elements of their living environment, such as the trees and birds in jungles.
The famous Panama hat is actually of Ecuadorian origin, but as it is often seen near the Panama Canal, it is now known worldwide as the Panama hat. It is made from the plaited leaves of a plant known locally as toquilla palm or woven with colourful toquilla straw. A Panama hat is decorated with black stripes or an ornamental design, and has an upturned brim edge. Its most striking characteristic is its soft and fine texture that feels like silk. The hat can be folded into a tube in the shape of oblique triangle and collected in an exquisite box. The box does not need to be opened until it is necessary to wear the hat, but when the box is opened, the hat will be found to have not become misshapen or bent at all.
Hospitable Panamanians sincerely invite tourists from all over the world to visit Panama. The person in charge of the booth said frankly, “China and Panama have enjoyed historical and cultural communication for more than 100 years. Panama was the first Latin American country to sign an agreement on the joint construction of the Belt and Road. We are happy to conduct economic exchange and cooperation with China. In addition, we will display our ancient civilisation through the Belt and Road. We are also eager to learn about the Chinese history and civilisation.”