MPH Panama Practicum 2013: Embera

Divina Palomares

July 14, 2013

Talk about cultural immersion!

Yesterday, we had the opportunity to visit the Embera tribe, roughly an 1 1/2 hr trip from the city and an additional 15-20 min canoe ride down the Chagres River. The scenery was phenomenal! The Embera people have built canoes and attached a small motor engine to the end as their main means of transportation. Prior to our visit, we traveled down the Chagres River and had the opportunity to take in the beautiful scenery and take a small swim.
As we traveled down the river, we got to see first hand the dangers and struggles this population endures during their travels. Prior to our trip, we were told that due to the rain we may not be able to visit the tribe, as the river level had risen to a perhaps dangerous level. At first I did not quiet understand what this meant; however, as we began to depart from the tribe, it all became clear to me. The higher the water level the more water motion and the more the canoe rocked from side to side as it made its way down the river. Needless to say, the transportation to and from the tribe was an experience in itself.

The women and men of the Embera were gracious and welcoming. They immersed us in their culture, taught us about their land and ancestry, prepared a fabulous lunch consisting of fish, plantains, and fruit, and demonstrated a couple of their tradition dances. After the demonstration we were welcomed to join and as our tour guide Juan said, “The one rule while visiting is, you never say No”.

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 »