The Republic of Panama is a Central American country bordered by Costa Rica and Colombia. Panama City is the capital of Panama, and it is home to about 1.5 million people.
Panama City was colonized by Pedro Arias de Ávila (aka Pedrarias Dávila) on August 15, 1519. The city soon became a hub for gold, silver, and exploration. In 1617, a group of 1400 men looted the city and set it on fire. Today, the ruins are a popular tourist attraction.
The first African slaves were brought to Panama in 1513. They were forced to work as domestics or to maintain ship ports. Once gold was discovered, slaves were used in the gold mines. In Panama, slaves greatly outnumbered the slave masters. By 1789, slaves made up more than half of the population.
Afro-Panamanians are split into two groups: Afro-Colonial and Afro-Antillean. Afro-Colonial people are descendants of slaves brought to Panama. Afro-Antillean people are immigrants from West Indian countries who came to build the Panama Canal. Afro-Panamanians are regionally concentrated in the Colón, Cristóbal and Balboa, and Río Abajo areas of Panama City.
Spanish is the official language of Panama. However, Afro-Panamaians on the Caribbean coast speak Negros Congos. Negros Congos is a traditional dialect based loosely on Spanish. It was created by slaves as a means to hide their speech from their masters. Like many other dialects in Latin America, Congo speech resembles other Spanish-African dialects.
Afro-Panamanian cuisine is a mixture between African and Spanish foods. Common staples are crabs, root vegetables, and coconuts. One popular dish from Panama is a condiment called Aji Chombo or "Black man's pepper". It is a pepper sauce made from scotch bonnet peppers, which have 150 to 350 thousand Scoville Units. Scotch bonnet peppers were brought from the Caribbean with immigrants working on the Panama Canal.