By Eleanor Deselms Langstaff
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Extra resources for Panama (World Bibliographical Series)
Modern surveys of these events are given in the work of scholars such as Michael Coniff and John Major. In the biography section, it will be seen that there is a dearth of substantial collective biography along the lines of Who's Who, possibly because the ruling classes tend to be related to each other in this small country. As more multinational activities are developed, the need for such a reference tool will no doubt become acute. Women as biographical subjects are featured in this section, as well as large and detailed biographies of key figures such as Generals Omar Torrijos and Manuel Noriega.
To the north it abuts Costa Rica; to the south, a dense forest and swampland separate it from Colombia, of which it once formed a province. The red volcanic soil and luxuriant vegetation contrast with the white beaches and sea-green coastal waters. The tropical climate enables a simple life-style that fulfils basic needs in areas that have maintained the ideal ecological balance, but its cities share in all the pleasures and artificialities that mark modern cities throughout the world. It is the isthmus that has shaped Panama's destiny.
Of Panama's natural resources, gold was mined and worked from earliest times. Today, copper and other minerals used in modern manufacturing are extracted and exported, and there is mahogany in the forests. The people who make up Panama are diverse. The major indigenous groups, especially the Kuna people, have a rich culture that has been much studied by outsiders, many of whom have published the results of their research in English and thus figure largely in these pages. But the population is three-quarters of mixed ancestry, indigenous and European or West Indian.