Panama: A Pris­tine Coun­try on the ‘Bridge of the World’

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS -

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.”

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