Recently the Director of Peace Boat US, Emilie McGlone traveled together with Daniel Yalowitz, the Dean of the Graduate Institute of SIT (School of International Training) and Joshua Harms, a talented videographer from New York City, to participate in a Peace Boat voyage from Panama to Guatemala, working with local indigenous communities in the region.
Deep in the eastern rainforests of Panama lies a local community called the Embera. Each tribe has its own language, territory and autonomy. The Embera live in the indigenous reserve established in 1983 and in 40 communities spread throughout the Darien province in the east of Panama. Created four years ago, the Embera Quera village, whose name means “Embera Fragrance”, consists of 18 families totaling 46 inhabitants. Like the other tribes, they have managed to retain their own unique language and culture, and use Spanish as a common language. Because Panama is a multicultural society, with its population made up of Native Americans, Africans, and Europeans, the indigenous people face less discrimination as they do in other nations, however they still work towards recognizing their indigenous identity and strengthening their communities.
The Embera greeted Peace Boat participants with traditional music and performed various ceremonial dances. For the Embera, dance and music are creative expressions of gratitude towards nature. The dances draw their names from animals: “The Hummingbird Dance” or “The Dance of the Ñeque”, for example. Flutes, drums and maracas mark the rhythm of the moves, which are quite simple and resemble animals’ movements.
Another important aspect of the life of the Embera is their comprehensive knowledge of botanical medicine. Strolling through the village area called “Traditional Path”, one of the herbalists in the community explained to participants their reliance on plants for medical use. “Yerba pasmo” taken in the form of tea is used for colds and rheumatic pains. “Coral” will alleviate headaches and “Uña de Gato” is processed as a vitamin. Captivated by this tradition, one of the participants concluded that “nature is a vital part of our lives and we have the obligation to protect and sustain our rich environment.”
Fore more information please visit: http://www.peaceboat.org/english/voyg/66/poc/pana/index.html
Guatemala is the heart of the Maya world, located south of Mexico and has been long known for its ancient Mayan ruins, dramatic volcanoes, and plethora of delicious tropical fruits. Underneath its beautiful surface, however, a civil war raged for 36 years between the government and guerrilla groups over securing the rights for the indigenous people (Mayan people) who make up more than half of population. The amount of violence and abuse directed towards women of Guatemala during the last few decades is immeasurable.
The group was hosted by women’s group Asociacion Mujer Vamos Adelante (AMVA, meaning Association of Women Moving Forward). AMVA is a growing collective of indigenous local women, together working to elevate their place within Guatemalan society. This process often begins teaching women what their actual rights are, and the importance of education – eventually also aiming to encourage more women to become involved in politics.