The Ngöbe Buglé are compromised of two separate ethnic-linguistic groups (The Ngöbe and the Buglé), which have different languages. They are Panama’s most numerous indigenous peoples with a population of about 180,000 Ngöbes and 10,000 Buglés and they inhabit the the “Ngöbe Buglé Comarca” which is a protected area that operates its own political system (comparable to a reservation). The majority of the Ngöbe Buglé lives in small communities or villages, mainly in mountainous areas of Bocas del Toro, Veraguas and Chiriqui. They live in “chozas” or huts made of straw with dirt floors. In their farms, Ngöbemen carry out agriculture of subsistence based on slash and burn techniques and produce corn, cassava, bananas, peach palm, and some other fruits. During the coffee harvest season more than half of them migrate to work the plantations in the western part of the province.
The women are responsible for the primary care of the children and the homes. Some of them also spend their time working with various arts and create several splendid crafts. The “chacara” is a type of woven bag made by the women that displays their numerous ancestral legends, mimicking the skin and colors of their animals and the landscape of the Comarca. These bags are made using fibres from the pita and cabuya plants.
Two other art forms created by the women are “chaquiras” – a type of beaded necklace and “naguas” which are the traditional dresses worn by the women and girls. The “naguas” are very colorful and beautiful and the hand-sewn applique work is inspired by the jagged shapes and vivid colors of the Ngöbe Buglé Mountains and forests.