Panama is a country on the isthmus linking Central and South America. The Panama Canal, a famous feat of human engineering, cuts through its center, linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to create an essential shipping route. In 2019 Panama ranked 57th in the world in terms of the Human Development Index. In 2018, Panama was ranked the seventh-most competitive economy in Latin America, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index.
Panama became the first Spanish colony on the Pacific. Celebrated as “the door to the seas and key to the universe,” it served in the 1530s as the staging point for the Spanish conquest of the Inca empire, and until the 19th century it was a transshipment point for gold and silver destined for Spain. Climatic conditions are markedly different on the Atlantic and Pacific sides of western Panama, especially in the amount and seasonal distribution of rainfall. On the Caribbean slopes of the Tabasará Mountains, which face the rain-bearing trade winds, average rainfall is approximately twice as heavy as on the leeward Pacific slopes.