Days ago, I visited Emberá Querá Community located on the Gatun River, Colon. A few months ago, I bought a coupon and waited for the rains to go down.
And this week I repeated my visit, because I wanted to go to the community anniversary party.
I arrived an hour early and the canoe was ready, the tour started right away, which is great (you can’t get there without having a scheduled tour, since the canoes have to go to look for the visitors and they only go according to the number of visitors of the day).
It is a journey of about 30 minutes by canoe, it is very quiet.
The canoe is a boat made with a single log of Espave wood, currently they are motorized.
During the trip they have their eyes on everything that happens around you so you don’t miss anything, I could see turtles, crops and monkeys.
You will pass through the Island of the monkeys, although there are only 3, if you are lucky one of the monkeys will get off and you will be able to feed it, this will depend on whether they have already fed them.
I did not have this opportunity on any of my 2 visits.
There are also alligators, but during the day it is not very easy to see them, so relax that they are far away.
Coming to the community, I could see their houses, we hear the sound of music, it is the reception of the Emberá.
Emberá Querá is a quite young community, it is 11 years old, it was created specifically for tourism, they are from Darien.
They have a leader or Noko that every 3 or 5 years they change it.
The botanist of Emberá Querá Community
He gave us a tour of the surroundings, informing us about medicinal plants, he showed us the school, the plant where they get the material for crafts, the cocoa tree, which I think was the first time I saw one.
Uses of paint
They usually paint their bodies, this serves as protection against the sun and mosquitoes, they also use it to camouflage themselves at night and thus be able to hunt.
It is extracted from the jagua or kipara seed and the design is called kiparapa. The painting lasts about 11 days, it started to be removed on the eighth day.
Baskets, the material is extracted from a plant called chunga, the pains are extracted from roots, plants and fruits. The smallest can take 15 days to make and the largest, a few months.
They make sculptures with the seeds of tagua or vegetable ivory.
Wood carving, for that they use the cocobolo tree. They use many animal and geometric designs.
If you bring several fruits, they peel them and present them to you in an Emberá-style tray, the fruits are only yours, not shared with others people.
The best are national fruits like pineapple, watermelon, melon, papaya, mandarin, are the most practical.
The Emberas have a different way of punishment or prison, it consists of some planks on the floor, where they can put their feet.
People are sitting on the ground all day for as long as they indicate, the family can give them food and they can release them to bathe and go to the toilet.
They can be there for up to 20 years.
They are circular bohios, raised some feet above the floor, they do not have walls (although all the ones I saw had walls), the columns are made of cocobolo, guayacán and loquat, the roofs are made of real palm leaves.
They eat bodochi, but what is that? It is a bollo made of rice without salt in a bijao leaf, they eat it with soup and roast meat.
They also have bollo on leaf corn, roasted bollo, strong girl, cocada, preserves, sugar cane liquor, fish soup.
They cook on a gas stove and only cook with firewood for special occasions and visitors.
It consists of a skirt (paruma or gua), a top made with beads and coins (paratacada or weaving of coins), bracelets and earrings.
On the head are placed a crown of natural papo flowers, however, for the everyday clothes they wear a paruma as a dressing gown.
They wear something called andia or guayuco (loincloth) and on holidays they add a skirt with beads (amburä) and bracelets.
Some also wear an odiabari, which are necklaces of beads that cross on the chest, and necklace called chirichiri.
Both are always barefoot.
In another place you will see them dressed like any other person. Before the arrival of the Spaniards they used fangs for their clothes and all their jewels were gold.
Then, they used tree bark for clothing and seeds, and later they began to wear the beads.
Dressing like the Emberá
I took advantage and dressed like them, even for a little while, I still do not know how they do it so that the skirt does not fall hahaha, I adjusted it every 5 minutes.
It was a great experience. This can be done by men and women.
After the tour, what else than enjoying a delicious lunch and I can say that it is very rich, patacones (curshed fried plantain) of Chinese plantain (also called square plantain or 4-edged) with fresh fried fish.
After the tour, you can visit the craft store and get a souvenir to home.
Previously they only believed in one god, although he was only on the day and the evil was at night, now they are Christians, however, they do not marry, they live in free union.
The visit ends with the dance, they dance about 3 pieces, they are short, so if you listen to the music, run.
With the last piece, they invite the assistants to dance.
An Emberá night
You can spend a night in the community, in an Embera style cabin, it include the day tour, plus all meals and night tours.
Every January 7th is the anniversary, they offer a buffet with traditional dishes and you can also participate with them in the ancestral games (this community received 17 medals in the last indigenous world games).
If you want to go to the party, you must tell them, since the activities and the buffet begin after the activities of the tours (when the tour ends), yes, you will still arrive early and will have almost all the activities of a tour.
- The Emberá are also in Colombia and Ecuador.
- Before, they buried their dead with their things belongings and they made the houses over their graves, just as in the Archaeological Site of Caño.
- Bring drinks (water and juices).
- Have a complete change of clothes in case it rains and you get wet.
- If you go in groups take advantage and bring fruit, they will serve you to eat something while lunch and you can see how they are presented it.
- Dress like the Emberá, wear black or skin-colored underwear to not look rare in the photos, you can also wear a top without strips.
- Note the real prices and if you see any offer take advantage of it.
- Hat and sunscreen
- A rain cape can be very useful if it rains, especially in the canoe.
- Respect culture and don’t mess up the community.
- After the explanation you will have some time, walk around the place a little or get closer to the indigenous people and talk to them, you will know more about their culture.
- Daily tours,
- It starts at 10:00 am and will ends at 3:00 pm.
- From $50.00 * – full day tour,
- From $115 day and night tour,
- $2.30 Panamá- Colón highway, each way.
It depends how many people have the group and if you go with a travel agency or with the Emberá.
How to get to Emberá Querá?
The best is to go by car, because of the arrival time and location of the place.
If you are traveling from Panama City take the highway and exit at Sabanitas, there is only one sign on a vehicular bridge (exit from Chilibre, toll and then the exit from Sabanita).
Take the street towards Panama City and about 20 meters after the bridge over the Gatún River, you will see a sign on the right side and a house on the left side.
Next to the house is the street that goes to the river, but it is go down, maybe you will not see (a few meters after the sign there is a pedestrian crossing and then the Gatún River Community).
About 50 meters from that street is the river, leave the car on the edge.
You can also leave it at the entrance house, there they will charge you $ 3.00, I suggest this especially if it is rainy weather.
Remember, you must have a hired tour to go to Emberá Querá, otherwise no one will be waiting for you.
- Contact: 507 6703.9475 (Atilano Flaco, he is Emberá) or with a tour operator.
- Video: Emberá Querá.