November 3 – Dominica and Panama Celebrate Today

Posted on November 3, 2013

Dominica is not the Dominican Republic. 

And Panama is not just a canal.

Dominica is an island nation in the Caribbean Sea. It is almost the size in land area of New York City—but not even quite that big. (NYC is the largest city in the U.S. by population, but only the 24th largest by land area.)

Panama is that skinny nation where South America meets North America. Its location and its narrow shape made it inevitable that Panama would play an important role as people explored and traded and traveled. In 1881 France began to build a canal across the narrowest part but had to stop because of engineering difficulties and because the workers were dropping like flies from disease. In 1904 the U.S. started work on the canal and met with the same sorts of disasters; however, in 1914 the canal was finally complete and the world got a lot smaller.

Today Dominica celebrates its 1978 independence from the United Kingdom, and Panama celebrates Separation Day, its 1903 declaration of independence from Colombia.

Cool stuff...

  • Even though the nation of Dominica is so tiny, it is home to the second largest hot spring. Boiling Lake is what is called a flooded fumarole. (A fumarole is an opening in the earth's crust that emits steam and gases.) The gray-blue water is always bubbling and boiling away, so there is always grayish steam enveloping the area. Because the lake has been formed from volcanic activity, it is always changing in size and depth. For example, in 1880 the lake disappeared, and instead there was a geyser-like fountain of hot water and steam.

You can see that, because the top part of
the map represents north and therefore east
is to the right and west is to the left, there
are parts of Panama that have the Pacific
to the east and the Atlantic (the
Caribbean) to the west.
  • Panama is the only place in the world where you can see the sun rise on the Pacific and set on the Atlantic. That's because the land bends around in an S shape so that, in one spot, there is a bay of the Pacific to the east and a bay of the Atlantic to the west.

  • Panama has a lot of diversity of plants and animals, with species from North as well as South America and more than 1,200 varieties of orchids.
  • In 1838 Dominica became the first British Caribbean colony to have a legislature controlled by an African majority. In 1999 Panama elected the second female head of state in Central America, Mireya Moscoso.

  • Panama has one of the stronger economies in Central America and arguably the best per capita. (Per capita means “for each person.” When talking per capita, you're talking percentages—it's a way of comparing economies of large, populous nations with smaller, less populous nations. Panama has the second lowest population in Central America but the second largest Gross Domestic Product, or GDP. It has the highest GDP per capita.)

  • Dominica has a slightly higher GDP per capita than Panama—but only the sixth highest among Caribbean nations. I know that Panama gets a lot of tourism, especially with all the cruise ships going through that canal! But maybe tourists in the Caribbean stay a little longer and spend a little more money on lodging, food, and entertainment.

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