Embera: A Community of Warriors

Embera: A Community of Warriors

Austin Hess 2020-11-27 09:08:46

The Emberá, also known in the historical literature as the Chocó or Katío Indians, are an ethnic group that lives in some areas of the Pacific region, mainly in Colombia and eastern Panama.

In the late 1700s, this community of warriors began migrating from the Choco region in Colombia to what is currently the Darién province in Panama, which had been home to the Tule or Guna people at the time of European contact. This migration was prompted by the Spanish, and took the form of a conflict between the Emberá and Gunas, moving the latter into the lands along the Caribbean coast which now form the Comarca Guna Yala and San Blas Islands.

The Darién has subsequently become recognized as the homelands of the Emberá in Panama, though they had also settled as far west as Lake Gatún and the riverine areas of what would become the Canal Zone. Nowadays they live at the edge of the river in little communities of thatch-roofed palafittes named tambos, for counteracting humidity and avoiding floods.

In their culture, men dedicate themselves to manufacture the famous “pirogues”, canoes made by shaping logs, used to navigate even during the dry season. While women make splendid baskets, plates, and masks out of vegetal fiber and delicate knitting. They wear collars known as chaquiras that are made of old silver coins, and all the members of the community use the genipa juice to paint their bodies with geometric designs; apparently, that works very well as a repellent and has healing properties.

The history of the Emberas has been one of courage, struggle, and resistance from the beginning. They are the warriors of a culture and a lifestyle that respects nature and its biodiversity, which they proudly protect and teach to future generations so that their legacy will persist over time.

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CeCe Wimbauer-Eisen27 November 2020, 9:54 am

Wonderful read! Learned something new today! Thank you for the article!

Margo Callaghan27 November 2020, 5:35 pm

Have you read my book? Darién Rainforest Baskets. Margo Callaghan

Austin Hess29 November 2020, 6:17 pm

No but I am interested, where can I find a copy? Also if you would like to post articles on the www.DoPanama.com site please email us at info@DoPanama.com

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