The most numerous indigenous people in Panama are the Ngäbe (comprising over 60 per cent of the indigenous population) and are closely affiliated with a small group known as Buglé. Both communities were previously referred to as Guaymi, although this is considered outdated. Ngäbe-Buglé traditionally live in the western provinces of Bocas del Toro, Veraguas and Chiriquí. However, many Ngäbe-Buglé have migrated to other parts of Panama in search of employment.

Ngäbe-Buglé is a region of Panama. It has an autonomous government represented by the Chief General Ngäbe Buglé and the General Congress Ngäbe Buglé. The region is inhabited by the indigenous Ngäbe and Buglé ethnic groups, as well as peasants and 213,860 people live in it in an area of ​​6,968 km². They are of strong build, their skin is dark, a flattened nose, full lips and straight hair. The Mama Tatda Church is the official religion of the Ngäbe-Buglé region, the largest in Panama and since 1999 it has been included in its organic letter.

The Ngöbe-Buglé generally live in wooden houses with grass or zinc roofs and dirt floors, but the houses of wealthier families may have concrete floors. In each house there is a platform under the roof that is used for food storage and there are several platforms for beds.

These indigenous peoples feed mainly on corn, beans, bananas, rice, and tubers such as otoe, dachin, and yucca. To serve the food they use totumas and pumpkins. They also drink fermented beverages made from corn, cane, cocoa, yucca, pixbae, ripe banana, and pineapple. The Ngobe Bugle people eat mostly the vegetables that the land produces, whether they cultivate or find in the forest.

Crafts give identity to a culture and its heritage status to be conserved and developed rests on this. The cargo bags called chácaras of pre-Columbian origin, like hammocks, are kept clearly and specifically in the Ngobe – Buglé region.

Despite centuries of domination, rejection and discrimination, these peoples retain, to varying degrees, many of their customs, ways of life, rites, beliefs, languages, art and clothing, many elements of their identity. This town has suffered the attacks of modernity but it is not extinguished, it continues walking and giving an example of struggle. Their capacity for resistance and their survival strategies have lasted all these years, leaving us amazed by everything that can be built outside of technology.

Don’t miss our visit to this community next time you travel to Panama!