URROUNDINGS / REGION
Panama is bordered by Costa Rica to the west, Colombia (in South America) to the southeast, the Caribbean sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The capital and largest city is Panama City, whose metropolitan area is home to nearly half of the country's 4 million people. Panamanians believe in general that the word Panama means "abundance of fish, trees and butterflies".
Panama was inhabited by several indigenous tribes prior to settlement by Spanish in the 16th century. Panama's tropical environment supports an abundance of plants. Forests dominate, interrupted in places by grasslands, scrub, and crops and the wildlife is the most diverse in Central America. It is home to many South American species as well as to North American wildlife.
The culture is reflected in traditional products, such as woodcarvings, ceremonial masks and pottery, as well as in Panama's architecture, cuisine and festivals. In earlier times, baskets were woven for utilitarian uses, but now many villages rely almost exclusively on income from the baskets they produce for tourists. Panamanian cuisine is a mix of African, Spanish, and Native American techniques, dishes, and ingredients, reflecting its diverse population