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PANAEXPO April 24 - 26, 2009

Indigenous Peoples


Panama’s seven indigenous groups are scattered in semi-autonomous territories. The Ngöbe, Buglé, Naso-Teribe and Bri-bri are the most representative native group in the western part of the country (in the provinces of Chiriquí, Bocas del Toro and Veraguas.) Together, they comprise 70% of the country’s indigenous population. The eastern side of the Panama is inhabited by the Emberá and Wounaan natives, in the Darien province, and by the Kunas, in the Kuna Yala Region.

Like their ancestors, the Emberá and Wounaan have lived in the tropical forests for centuries. They have an innate understanding and respect for nature, and their wood carving and weaving skills are exquisite. The Kunas, on the other hand, settled along the Caribbean coast and on the islands, and are known for having a stronghold on their traditions and for their molas, handcrafts made from appliqués set on fabric.

The descendants of African immigrants settled in the Central Regions of Panama and in the Darien Province, where the rhythm of the Bullerengue and the Bunde still evoke the origin of their traditions. A second migratory wave at the beginning of the 20th century gave way to the blacks from the Antilles to work in the construction of the Panama Canal. This second ethnic group was English speaking and settled in Panama City, Colon and Bocas del Toro. The mestizos and mulattos are the result of years of ethnic and cultural mixing, dispersed throughout Panama. Their folklore is expressed through its music and dances; regional and traditional foods such as arroz con pollo (rice chicken) and sancocho de gallina (chicken soup), while their festive disposition shines through in fairs and festivals.

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