MPH Panama Practicum 2013: The Embera

Joanna Filopoulos

July 13, 2013

Today we visited the Embera tribe. We took our van through the national park to the Chagras River where the tribes people met us with canoes. We put on our life vest and sat on the wooden canoes for the ride to the village. The canoes were hand made of wood but seemed to hold up well, although because of the shallow ends of the river we had to stop and push the canoe a few times. The Embera welcomed us warmly with music in their traditional dress. When we entered the village we sat on benches as the leader of the tribe officially welcomed us. He told us of the importance of dance for a community to flourish. Then the women danced for us while the men kept the beat with drums and flutes. We joined them in their last dance, our guide told us the one rule of the community was to never say no.

After the dancing we met in another hut to eat a traditional lunch of fried fish with plantains. The food was some of the best I’ve had yet, and biodegradable! The leader then told us of the importance of preserving their way of life. He explained the history of his tribe and their unique way of life. The tribe now survives by ecotourism, taking groups like us in their canoes and to their village. There is a shared respect that comes from the tribe sharing their culture with us and sharing our own as well. What a great experience!

About the MPH Panama Practicum

A group of University of Southern California graduate students are researching public health in Panama City, Panama, for a two-week international practicum, organized by the USC Master of Public Health (MPH) program. This post was excerpted from panama.usc.eduView all posts in this series »