Journal archives for January 2012

January 29, 2012

Embera Village, Panama

We just finished a NationalGeographic/ Lindblad trip to Costa Rica and the panama canal: pricy, but rather excellent value. Central America is of course lousy with species of all sorts--perhaps fewer in kind and numbers than recently--but still a great place to see things. One aspect of their trips is their giving work to local or locally knowledgable naturalists. For a group of 40 we had 5, a nice ratio even with the coincidence of having a large contingent of retired MIT graduates who bristled with questions.

What exemplified a lot of the conflicted feelings I had during this idyll was a side trip we took after debarking in Colon to an Darian Indian 'model village' near Gamboa. The drill is to motor across the Chagres River(a major part of the water that makes the Canal work) in a large dugout to the home of 38 natives. The details are exquisitely maintained...really quite impressive...and you are treated with hospitality that includes real enthusiasm. A nice touch is that the women have been persuaded--to respect our culture--to don tops.

They occupy a few acres of the Soberantes National Park, are allowed to harvest fish from the river, but not hunt in the forest. They farm the periphery of their settlement with various bananas, oil palms, a few veggies and zinnas to attract the lepidopterans. They are allowed to harvest from the forest royal palm fronds for their structures(very well-made), and black palm fronds for their baskets.

These later, aside from their place in the hospitality industry, are a prime source of income. Based on an historic craft, these are are highly modified on the advice of dealers and collectors to the point that they must startle the more venerable of their elders. But you'll fall for them anyway, priced at 1$/day of crafting time. To be very sure of this investment, a nice young Chicago Lady staying there as a Peace Core volunteer was principally there to provide marketing advice to them...Could I have made this up???

A final impression was delivered when a friend asked a village man about the wellsprings of his impressive forest knowledge: elders, perhaps? He said: yes, they were informative to an extent; but where he got his main brief was from scientists visiting from the nearby Smithsonian Institute facility.

Posted on January 29, 2012 14:14 by icosahedron icosahedron | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment