The Republic of Panama is located between Costa Rica and Colombia, forming the narrowest and lowest portion of the Isthmus that links North and South America. Shaped like an elongated letter "S", which extends west to east some 420 miles (676 km.). Several stories are heard about the name of the country. Many believe that the name “Panama” came from a commonly found species of trees, from the abundance of butterflies (in an indigenous language). However, the most believed explanation is that the name “Panama” means abundance of fishes.
The Isthmus of Panama was discovered in 1501 by Rodrigo de Bastidas. Vasco Nunez de Balboa also had a leading part in Panama’s history, as he establishment of Santa María La Antigua del Darién in 1510, the first permanent settlement on the mainland of the Americas. In 1513, Balboa led an expedition, in Panama, that discovered the Pacific Ocean. Panama City was founded by Pedro Arias Davila on 15 August 1519, almost a hundred years before Jamestown; first permanent English settlement in North America was founded. Panama was a Spanish colony until 1821 when it became part of the Gran Colombia of Simón Bolivar.
In 1903, Panama broke its alliance with Colombia and became an independent republic. Today, the executive branch of the Government is at present composed of a President and one Vice-President, democratically elected for a five year term by direct vote.
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