MPH Panama Practicum 2013: The Embera Village

Phillip Daneshgar

July 17, 2013

I had the pleasure of recently visiting the Embera Village. To get to this destination, was a journey of its own. We had to travel an hour by bus and were then greeted by Embera natives once we stopped at the Chagres River. Our entire crew was split into two canoes. The canoe had a motor on the back and an Embera native who would help navigate the canoe with a long wooden stick.

Once we arrived to the Embera Village, we were very kindly greeted with music of the tribe?s culture. It was quite a site to see how members of the Embera Tribe could create such tremendous music with their local resources, such as deer. As we strolled deeper into the village, the chief of the tribe then welcomed us. He announced that we would be viewing dancing rituals by women of their tribe. One of the dances was called the monkey dance, in which the women would dance in circles making various humming noises. Our group was then invited to dance with members of the tribe. Many of us were laughing, smiling, and just taking in this whole new culture. We were then guided to the huts of the village where we were served a traditional meal of plantains and fried fish tucked into a banana leaf. An assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables soon followed. It was very intriguing to hear their history and how devoted they are to preserving their culture. However, it was said to hear that because of new laws put in place and the establishment of a national park, Embera people would be charged to use resources such as trees and others available in nature. Due to this, the village is forced to put on shows for tourism. I was shocked to see how up to date parts of the village were. As I wondered off to find a bathroom, I was surprised to find a very new and clean bathroom with a working plumbing system.

The Embera journey was completed with offerings of beautifully handcrafted souvenirs and traditional temporary tattoos. The Embera Village was very unique and impressive. I am delighted to have experienced it and witness the culture.

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 »