Embera / Wounaan

The Emberá-Wounaan comarca is one of the autonomous Native area. It was created in 1983 from parts of the Darien forest as Chepigana and Pinogana. The capital is Unión Chocó. The comarca has 4383.50 km². Population is 9544 souls (2010), and most are Emberá or Wounaan. There are 40 communities.

These 2 ethnies are very similar: they share the same culture, the same kind of home, the same traditions. Language is different: the Embera for the people of the same name and the Woun meu or Maach meu for the Wounaans.

During the colonial time, they had other names as: Citares, Zirambiraes, Citabiraes or Chocoes. These natives did arrive on the isthmus in the XVIII th century arriving from current Colombia, area of Choco. At the time of Colon, they were living in current Brazil.

Living along the several rivers throughout the Darien primary forest, these people are isolated from civilization and have few access to modern medecine. They live of hunting, fishing, fruit and roots picking. And a little bit of tourism (handcraft).

The major problem is the illegal cut of the trees to be shipped to China: Darien forest hosts many precious woods! This robbery also affect the animals and the Native as they have a great respect for mother nature. Also note that Natives do not receive any money or compensation for the cut on their lands!

The Andia is what men wear to hide their sexe but slowly the modern wear gets more popular. Women choose the pareo and hide their breast with something made of pearls. They also love collars.

The jagua is a natural pigment produce by a plant and used to paint the body.

Homes are built on pilotis to protect from animals and water flow. The roof is conical and made of guagara (see here over). Floor is made of palm of Jira.

Emberá-wounaan work and live by the rivers. They make dugout with trees of espavé, cedro espino or pino amarillo. They are great carpenters and also made beautifull handcraft.

The most unusual is the vegetal ivoiry: the nut of a special palm tree, called Tagua (size of an egg) is carved and painted. The inside of the nut looks and is almost has hard of ivory.

The river is like a floating market

Tourism is very limited but the handcraft helps to buy tools and some manufactured products. It pays also trip to the capital when needed.

Native are monogamous and family is very important. They live in tribes. The jaibaná (shaman) are in charge of the spirits and medecine.

Visitor needs at least 4 days to discover this area but 7 days is far better.