A day with the Embera

By Juliette Darmon

This experience has to be lived during your trip in Panama, so save some time for one day among the Embera community!

The driver will pick you up at your hotel early in the morning for around one-hour trip until Corotú pier. There, you will board on a motorized piragua and travel for around 30 minutes through deep jungle up the Chagres River to the the Indigenous village of Emberá Drua.

Keep your eyes open during this trip, you will be fascinated by the peaceful atmosphere of the dense jungle, the fresh nature and the wildlife you could observe.

Once at the village, the Embera community welcomed us by some traditional songs and dances.

We immediately felt comfortable, thanks to their friendly and warmly personalities.

The head of the community, elected by all the indigenous, then explained us their story and culture, the reason they came here, their way of life and traditions.

It has been so interesting listening to him and learning about their life!

The Embera community used to live in Darien, but some of them decided to move due to the real hard life conditions over there. Elias, one of the two founders of the community in Chagres National Park, arrived 41 years ago and they are now 106 indigenous living in the community.

They built all their houses themselves, while the women take care of the children and spend hours for handcrafted works every day. One of them also explained us which materials did they use, how did they collect and color them, but also the way they designed their works. It’s interesting to note that the prices correspond to the number of hours the women spent for making them.

Moreover, all the children of the community are schoolchild thanks to a school they have built, managed by one teacher and one professor from the city living in the indigenous village from Monday to Saturday.

Another amazing moment was lunch time.

During our way on the morning, we stopped by a local market with our guide, in order to buy some fruits and food for lunch to bring to the community. For lunch, we have tasted some grilled fish with typical “patacones” in a real banana leaf, following by fresh fruits! To wash our hands, we had to put them in water with lemongrass prepared by the indigenous. Funny vision of soap, isn’t it? What an amazing moment shared with them! At this point, we really realized the unique experience we were living…

Then we also had some time to have a look at their handcrafted market and buying whatever we wanted to, while we were watching them working on it.

With Elias, founder and doctor/ physician of the community, we had the chance to discover his secret botanical garden…! This man, 78 years old, is really impressive, and so endearing!
He has such an healthy life! Much more than ours…! He seeded all the medicinal plants by himself and each plant is used for healing something in particular. That’s the only way the Emberas heal themselves. It even exists one typical plant when pregnant women give birth, supposed to make them not feeling any dolor…! You could buy some if you are interested in.

Anyways, we could have stayed hours listening to him…

Before leaving the community, the Emberas offered us a traditional dance and music show that they usually do for some occasions, like a baby birth, a 15-years-old ceremony, or even for the end-building of a new house!

Time to say goodbye came, and we took the piragua to come back to the coast. The driver was waiting for us and he dropped us off to the city.

Trust me, this day will stay in your mind for a while!

P.S. Take your camera, a waterproof pocket and a raincoat just in case it will rain because remember that you are going into the rainforest and deep jungle!


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