My project here in Panama is with the Ngobe Bugle people.
The Ngobe Bugle are one of the seven tribes of indigenous peoples in Panama. As is the case for many indigenous
peoples in various parts of the world, life here is very difficult. Distance from needed resources, poor nutrition
and medical services, lack of education, and the loss of traditional means for generating income create a harsh environment.
While attempting to maintain their cultural traditions and independence, it is also becoming necessary for this goup to look
at new ways to develop and maintain the services they need.
My role here is to work mainly in the area of health and nutrition - the Panamanian
agency that I´m working with is called MOCELVA (Modelo de Comunidad Ecologia Los Valles). Initially I worked on a grant
proposal that will hopefully give MOCELVA the funds needed to operate a program centered around health and nutrition for one
year, indluding the construction of a Center for Health. I completed an in-depth needs analysis of the community,
prepared a one-year program, and wrote the proposal. Now I'm conducting a series of educational seminars for the children
in the communities to learn more about nutritional needs as well as teaching cooking classes to the women (based on healthy
eating). The main purpose in my being here is to help the communities utilize their current food resources to the best
of their ability, as well as to look at ways to create increased knowledge and self-sufficiency.
The Ngobe Bugle Culture
The Ngobe Bugle are compromised of two seperate ethni-linguistic groups (The Ngobe and
the Bugle). They are Panama's most numerous indigenous peoples with a population of about 180,000 Ngobes and 10,000
Bugles and they inhabit the the Ngobe-Bugle Conmarca which is a protected area that operates it's own political system (comparable
to a reservation).
The majority of the Ngob-Bugle live in small communities or villages like the two that
I am working in. They live in "chozas" or huts made made of straw with dirt floors. In their farms, Ngobe men carry
out an agriculture of subsistence based on slash and burn techniques and produce corn, cassava, bananbas, peach palm, and
some other fruits. During the coffee harvest season more than half of them migrate to work the plantations in
the western part of the province.
The women of course, are resposnsible for the primary care of the children and the homes.
Some of them also spend their time working with various arts and create several splendid crafts. The "chacara"
is a type of woven bag made by the women that displays their numerous ancestral legends, mimicing the skin and colors of their
animals and the landscape of the Comarca. These bags are made using fibres from the pita and cabuya plants.
I have information showing how they are made step by step if you have an interest in seeing the process.
Two other art forms created by the women are "chaquiras" - a type of beaded necklac and
"naguas" which are the traditional dresses worn by the women and girls. I was lucky enough to receive one of these as
a gift from one of my "aunts" in David. The naguas are very colorful and beautiful and the hand-sown applique work is
inspired by the jagged shapes and vivid colors of the Ngobe-Bugle mountains and forests.
|Naguas for young girls.
|Naguas de nińas