Panama is a country of links. Situated on an isthmus, it geographically links Central and South America. The man-made Panama Canal links the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Conceptually, Panama links the past and the present with perhaps more visual singularity than any other nation.
Panama City is the most magnified version of this. The capital city blends glass & steel skyscrapers with ruins, casinos & clubs with colonial buildings, and the culture is similarly blended. Panama is one of the most economically progressive countries in Latin America and one of the most well managed. It is incredibly modern in the cities, but still very much rooted in the past as evidenced by the brightly hued folk art being hawked from the sidewalk, centuries of tradition offered from blankets framed by concrete modernity. Traditions remain a locked link between the present and the past.
With its unique position in the world, it has truly formed a melting pot of cultures. A popular Panamanian phrase is:
Puente del mundo, corazón del universo.
Bridge of the world, heart of the universe.
Traditional Panamanian music and dance pay homage to its hybrid history. Derived from European influences brought over by the Spanish and melded over time with African and Native American culture, what stands as being traditionally Panamanian now is beautifully unique. Tamborito, for example, is a popular folk dance that combines Spanish steps with African rhythms and moves. Catholicism, another gift from Spanish colonizers, is also still predominant. Away from city life, however, indigenous groups still practice their ancestral customs in semi-independent territories called "Comarcas." Old or new, Panama seems able to embrace it all creating a wonderfully diverse cultural landscape.