Panama has a cultural multiplicity that makes it unique in the region. One of the biggest contributors to the country’s richness is the constant presence of visitors and the blending of cultures from other parts of the world. As a point of contact and a crossing site, this small strip of land is considered a true crucible of races. With almost four million inhabitants, Panama’s population consists of 67% mestizos (mixed race Amerindian and Caucasian) and mulatos (mixed race Cacausian and African-descent), 14% African-descent, 10% Caucasian, 6% Amerindian indigenous and 3% of people from varied ethnic origins. This ethnic mixture is particularly rich because although it comes from a wide variety of cultural origins and diverse traditions, the mixture has been stimulated by the atmosphere of tolerance and harmony that has always reigned in the country.
Although all forms of religious practice are respected, the population is mainly Roman Catholic and the religion is deeply bound to the traditions and cultural expressions of the country. In the interior, for example, the greatest celebrations are related to a diverse group of saints and these saints are even considered the “owners” of different towns. One of the greatest celebrations relating to Catholic beliefs is the Carnival of Panama. The Carnival is a massive four day celebration that precedes the “Cuaresma” – the 40 days from Ash Wednesday until Easter that are observed as a season of fasting and penitence in preparation for Easter.
Another important aspect of the cultural wealth of the country are the traditions of the seven indigenous groups of Panama. These groups are based in semi-independent “Comarcas”- autonomous territories where indigenous groups maintain a traditional lifestyle and can freely practice ancestral customs. Panama’s indigenous populations maintain musical and dance traditions that date back centuries and their most visible cultural contribution is their highly-prized traditional folk art. Other ethnic groups of more recent arrival complete the unique cultural diversity of Panama, making it a warm, friendly and dynamic country that welcomes diversity.