Panama has a cultural variety that makes it unique in the region. One of the biggest contributors to the country’s wealth is the constant presence of visitors and the mix of cultures from other parts of the world. As a point of contact and a point of passage, this small strip of land is considered a veritable melting pot. With almost four million inhabitants, the population of Panama is made up of 67% mestizos (a mixture of Amerindian and Caucasian races) and mulattos (a mixture of Caucasians and Afro-descendants), 14% Afro-descendants, 10% White, 6% of indigenous Amerindians and 3% of people of diverse ethnic origins. This ethnic mix is particularly rich because, although it comes from a great variety of diverse cultural backgrounds and traditions, the mix has been stimulated by the atmosphere of tolerance and harmony that has always reigned in the country.
Despite the fact that all forms of religious practices are respected, the population is predominantly Catholic, and religion is deeply linked to the traditions and cultural expressions of the country.
Inside, for example, the biggest celebrations are related to a diverse group of saints and these saints even consider themselves the “owners” of different towns. One of the biggest celebrations related to Catholic beliefs is the Panama Carnival. Carnival is a massive four-day celebration that precedes “Lent,” the 40 days from Ash Wednesday through Easter that are observed as a season of fasting and penance in preparation for Easter.
Another important aspect of the cultural richness 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 where they can freely practice their ancestral customs. The indigenous populations of Panama maintain musical and dance traditions that go back centuries and their most visible cultural contribution is their precious traditional folk art. Other ethnic groups that arrived more recently complete the unique cultural diversity of Panama, making it a warm, friendly and dynamic country that welcomes diversity.