Panama has a canal, but what else do you know about this country? You’ll learn about Panama in this episode and we’ll share some tips and ideas on how to improve your speaking with a friend.
Voice message from Lucas from Brazil (He’s a firefighter and rescue diver)
I’m thinking about X
changeX (changing) my career.
Voice message from Maritza from Panama
Great idea to chat with a friend once a week.
Ideas: role play, language focus on a grammar point, vocabulary focus on a vocab area, speak for 60 seconds on a topic and give HONEST feedback, debate a controversial topic and argue against your opinion. Read a book or watch a film in English and discuss it, Google ‘conversation topics’ (ESL, TEFL, TESL)
Costa Rica to the west, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the south.
As it’s located in The Tropics, the mean temperature of the coldest month is rarely under 26 °C on either coast.
Half the population of 4 million live in Panama City, the capital. For such a small country (about 76,000 square km).
It has an amazing variety of landscapes and wildlife, with quite different climates on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts.
The Pacific coast, which receives less rain, is more densely populated.
It’s well known for its natural beauty and diversity of vegetation and animal species, including jaguars, stripe-cheeked woodpeckers and two and three-toed sloths!
The flag of Panama, devised in 1904, is divided into four quarters of diagonally opposite blue and red squares two diagonally opposite white squares. There’s a blue star in the top left-hand square and a red star in the bottom left-hand square. The similarities with the US flag are almost certainly not a coincidence, though officially red represents liberals and blue conservatives with white as peace:
Like many Central and South American countries, Panama was inhabited by indigenous tribes before Spanish colonists arrived in the 16th century, notably the Guaymí, Cuna and Chocó, with their own languages.
Today under 10% of the population speak these Native American languages.
Africans were later forcibly brought to Panama as slave labour.
Panama was Spain’s first Pacific coast colony.
It broke away from Spain in 1821 and joined the Republic of Gran Colombia (Nueva Granada, Ecuador, and Venezuela).
Panama celebrates 2 independence days; from Spain (1821) and from Colombia (1903)
With the backing of the United States, Panama separated from Colombia in 1903, allowing the construction of the Panama Canal to be completed by the US Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914.
Interestingly, the canal construction rights had originally been granted to a French company, which had successfully built the Suez Canal, but financial difficulties forced them to sell on the rights.
Needless to say, apart from Colombia, many Panamanians were also deeply unhappy about a part of their newly independent country being effectively taken over by a foreign imperial power in the 1903 treaty.
The canal is 83 kilometres/50 miles long and connects the Pacific Ocean with the Caribbean Sea.
The canal lies within the 10-mile wide Canal Zone, of which the USA had sole possession and jurisdiction for decades through the 1903 treaty.
In 1977 President Jimmy Carter narrowly won a debate – by one vote! – to gradually return the zone to Panama’s control. However, The US invaded Panama in 1989 to remove dictator Manuel Noriega from power.
Many Panamanians lost their lives and many homes were destroyed.
The Canal was transferred from the United States to Panama on December 31, 1999, as agreed in the 1977 deal.
All vessels going through the Panama Canal have to pay a toll. The toll is based on the type of vessel, its size, and its cargo. The highest toll ever paid was $376,000 by the Norwegian Pearl cruise ship in 2010.
The lowest toll paid was $0.36—it was charged to Richard Halliburton, who swam through the Canal in 1928.
“Mano de Piedra” (“Hand of Stone”)
Boxed from 1968 to 2001
He held world championships in four weight classes: lightweight, welterweight, light middleweight and middleweight.
119 professional fights, 103 wins, and 70 knockouts.
Manos de Piedra (2016) Edgar Ramírez as Duran and Robert De Niro as Ray Arcel:
General Manuel Antonio Noriega Morena (1938 – 2017)
Panamanian military dictator, commander of the Panamanian Defense Forces (1983–89), and real power behind the civilian president.
At first, he was an ally of the USA and even helped the CIA keep elements “undesired” by the USA at bay, helping stage a coup to bring his friend Captain Omar Torrijos to power years before he himself took control.
Later the relationship turned sour and US forces toppled his regime.
One of the very few leaders of a country to be found guilty of drug trafficking, racketeering and money laundering. He was imprisoned first in the USA, then France, and finally Panama.
Panama was the very first Latin American country to adopt the U.S. dollar as its official currency.
The famous Panama hat was actually first used in Ecuador! It became popular in Panama much later, in the 18th century!
The oldest continually operating railroad in the world is in Panama. The Panama Railroad opened in 1855 and runs alongside the Canal.
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On next week’s episode: Football
The music in this podcast is by Pitx. The track is called ‘See You Later’
Photo by Alejandro Carvallo on Unsplash