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May 15, 2003

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The Spanish founded Panama on the site of a fishing village in 1519 and the name "Panama" means abundant fish in the native Indian language. Gold also became abundant as the Spanish used this new city as the staging post for plunder heading back to Mother Spain. The gold attracted pirates, and in 1671 Henry Morgan, the famed British pirate, burned the city to the ground. The Spanish re-established it a few kilometers east (present day old town) but eventually stopped using Panama as a major trading post. It declined in importance. Panama declared itself independent from Colombia on November 3rd, 1903, the country's most important date. Commerce returned with the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914.
Panama City encloses a real jungle within its concrete jungle: the Parque Natural Metropolitano. Some trees look like skyscrapers and the mosquitos attack like mad salesmen. Titi monkeys clamber about the trees and toucans show off their rainbow beaks.
Last look at Panama City. This afternoon we will fly to Quito, Ecuador. Overland trips from Panama thru Colombia have become too dangerous. The InterAmericana ends in Panama and no roads go from there into Colombia. With so much to see in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and the rest of SA we decided to skip Colombia. So much for Central America, next stop - South America.