Ever since my mum’s cousin told me we had family in Panama I really started to take an interest in it, probably more so than anyone else as I know they speak Spanish out there and obviously I speak Spanish...well... more Spanglish but I can get by J So now I’m really happy that I have family that I can visit in a completely new country in a part of the world that I’ve never been to before and speak Spanish with them.
So Panama is in Central America, now I’d never heard of Central America till I met my friend Gabz who is from El Salvador (in Central America) in my teens. So basically I thought all of Central America was actually South America it took a while for my friend to break it down to me and I still don’t really get it, but at least I know that Central America exists and it’s on the border of both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean between Columbia and Costa Rica.
So when my mum’s cousin told me about having family there I couldn’t really understand the connection between Barbados (where we are from) and Panama, then I saw that one of the ethnic groups in Panama is the Afro-Panamanians which includes many Caribbean nationalities, notably Bajans and Jamaicans who were brought in to help with the construction of the Panama Canal in 1914. So I’m guessing after that time they didn’t bother to return back to Barbados so just stayed in Panama and called it home.
It’s all so fascinating to me because before I was told this I just assumed all our family (on my mums side) were in Barbados, America and England and maybe Canada... I would never had guessed I had family in that part of the world. So the thought of having to go on a long haul flight to visit family in a warm place with beautiful beaches where I can practise my Spanish really excites me!!!!
OK OK so enough of my excitement. I want you to be as excited as I am about this place, so here’s the 5 reasons why you should visit Panama...Although this list could change the more I learn about Panama:
From unique boutiques by the ocean to modern malls, shopping in Panama is a laid back experience. Multiplex Pacific Mall has over 300 stores featuring top North American and European brands. Albrook Mall is the largest mall in Latin America with over 700 shops and exotic animal decor throughout and there is also cinema there too. Also if like me you like to stay away from commercial tourist places and do it like the locals they also have plenty of colourful bustling outdoor markets including Avenida Central in Panama City which is a pedestrian street and market. According to Frommers it’s a ‘Scrappy, run-down neighbourhood, with cheap stores, outdoor fruit and vegetable markets and a bustling fusion of ethnic groups shopping for a bargain’
This is a small paradise that consists of 378 islands which lie along the Caribbean coast of Panama and is perfect for those looking to do swimming or snorkelling.
Festivals and Celebrations
Every year on the 4 days leading up to Ash Wednesday (which is usually the 2nd week in February) the Panama carnival takes place and although it’s not an official national holiday it’s one of the most celebrated Panamanian festivals. Also the Christmas parade El desfile de Navidad is celebrated in the capital, Panama City and actually takes place on Christmas day. The floats are decorated in Panamanian colours and the women dress in a Pollera while the men dress in the traditional Montuno. There’s also a marching band that keeps the crowds entertained. A big Christmas tree is also lit in the city and everyone surrounds the tree and sings Christmas carols.
With a mix of African, Spanish and Native American techniques Panamas food is mildly flavoured compared to it’s Latin American and Caribbean neighbours. If you’re into your seafood then you will be in your element here because Panama is surrounded by 2 oceans so seafood markets are commonplace. For a true taste of Panama you could try their national dish Sancocho which is like a soup/broth which has various ingredients including meat, corn on the cob, carrots and plantains, it actually looks like the traditional West Indian soup my mum would make when we were growing up and I like most kids would just fish out all the dumplings and eat them.