The walled city survives as the Casco Viejo, and the areas adjacent to it are now densely populated slums.Because the former Canal Zone abuts the old city on the north and west, the growing population was forced to fan out along the bay to the north and east.There is a longtime Chinese community, and a small Hindu community lives in the capital, Panama City.
After the transfer of sovereignty over the canal, those workers migrated to Panama City. Panamanians do not consider themselves former Colombians.
From 1578 to 1751, Panama was the seat of a Spanish real audiencia (court of chancery), with Spanish lawyers and a governor or captain general.
Outside the city walls was a neighborhood of free blacks living in thatched structures.
Farther out were the cattle ranches and farms of the elite, which were staffed by slaves.
Together, these two groups constitute 70 percent of the population.
There are four officially recognized Indian ethnic groups (the Kuna, Guaymi or Ngawbe, Embera, and Waunan), which number fewer than 200,000.
They speak English, French, or an English patois at home and are mostly Protestant. The official language is Spanish, but English is used widely in business, especially banking and tourism, and by some people of African descent. Some coins bear the image of Urraca, an Indian chief who resisted the Spanish conquests, but most coins depict Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, the discoverer of the Pacific Ocean. Panama became an autonomous nation because of its function as the custodian of the transisthmus shipping route—the "path between the seas." It gained independence in 1903 as part of an American-sponsored revolt against Colombia that led to the signing of a treaty granting the United States the right to build the Panama Canal.
The Spanish discovered and conquered Panama between 15.
After failing to build a sea-level canal in the 1880s, the French sold their concession to the United States, which conspired with the elite in Panama City to declare independence when they could not obtain a favorable treaty from Colombia.
From 1903 to 1978, the United States controlled the Canal Zone, a five-mile strip on both sides of the canal.
The Pacific coastline, with the Azuero Peninsula jutting south to define the Gulf of Panama, is longer than the Atlantic coastline.