People in Panama
The majority of Panama's residents are descendants of
a mix of Native American indigenous people with European
immigrants, mostly Spanish. Their share is 65 percent,
in the west of the country even 90 percent.
12 percent belong to the indigenous peoples, mainly
Guaymí and Kuna, as well as a minority the Emberá in the
east (on the border with Colombia) and Teribe in the
northwest (on the border with Costa Rica).
Guaymí live mainly in the northwest in the province
of Ngöbe-Buglé. These are also other names of their
people: Ngöbe and Buglé. The Kuna live on the
northeastern Caribbean coast and the offshore islands in
the province of Guna Yala.
In 2011, a dam was built that flooded large parts of
Guaymí territories. The planned construction of the
Barro Blanco hydropower plant would result in further
flooding. Guaymí lose their land. Damage can also be
expected for the environment.
Who are the Kuna?
The Kuna maintain their old traditions and preserve
their culture. This is how they practice their
traditional handicrafts, especially sewing molas. The
fabrics are decorated with geometric patterns. Several
layers of different colored fabrics are artfully sewn
7 percent of the population are white. 9 percent are
black. They are either descendants of black slaves that
the Spaniards brought here from Africa. Or they are
descendants of immigrants from the West Indies, i.e.
from the Caribbean, in particular from Barbados and
Jamaica. They speak a Creole language based on English.
4 percent of the population are Asians. They came to
the country to help build the Panama Canal or railroad
- Children: Every woman in Panama has an
average of 2.2 children. With us, every woman has an
average of 1.4 children. So the families in Panama
are bigger than ours.
- Urban and rural: 68 percent of Panama's
residents live in the city. The Pacific coast is the
most densely populated. A third of all residents
live in the metropolitan area around the capital
Panama City on the Panama Canal.
Languages in Panama
Spanish is the official language in Panama. 93
percent of the population speak Spanish as their mother
tongue. However, the Spanish spoken in Panama is
different from Spanish in Spain. There are even some
differences to the other Central American countries.
Panamanian Spanish has more in common with Caribbean
Spanish, that is, with the Spanish spoken in Puerto
Rico, Cuba and on the Caribbean coasts of Colombia and
It can be recognized primarily by the pronunciation
of the s, which is more breathy, i.e. pronounced more
like an h (for example in the word cascada, pronounced
like cah-cada ). The same applies to the g (before e and
i) and the j, which are spoken in Spanish like the ch
in "ach", but are breathed in in Panama. In addition,
the Spanish ch (spoken: "tsch") is spoken by many
speakers like "sch".
There are also a number of words that are completely
different in Panama, such as saying pelao instead of
chico to child. The last r is often left out of the
infinitive, for example reí instead of reír (laugh). A d
in the middle of a word is often left out: comío instead
Incidentally, many Panamanians also speak English.
That's why you can communicate quite well with English.
The indigenous people also speak their own languages.
The Kuna language and Ngäbere as the language of the
Guaymí are the most widespread. Both belong to the
Chibcha languages. Traditionally they were only spoken
and did not exist as script. Examples of Ngäbere: Ti aro
kwete. That means, "I eat rice." Tikwe ñaka ye noaema
means, "I didn't do that."
The Emberá, of whom about 7000 people live in the
east of Panama, also speak their own language.
Religions in Panama
About 80 percent of the population of Panama are
Catholic, 15 percent Protestant. 2 percent belong to the
Baha'i community. Other minorities are Mormons,
Buddhists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews, Muslims and