Comarca is an autonomous territory of the Ngöbe-Buglé Indigenous
People. It was founded on May 7, 1997 and is the home to about 115,000
inhabitants. There are eight different
groups of indigenous people in Panama
who live in the Comarcas, all with different
customs and languages. Centuries
ago, the Indigenous Ngöbe-Buglé People lived throughout most of western
Panama, as far east as the Panama
Canal. But as a consequence of different occupying forces, the indigenous
people were forced to flee further and further into the remote mountains
in order to be able to conserve their culture and customs.
Currently, the Comarca functions on the margins of the economy
and society of Panama.
The people called Ngöbe (Ngöbére is the name of their
language) live around Soloy and throughout the area of the comarca on
the Pacific slopes of the isthmus. They also occupy a large part of the
comarca on the Caribbean side of the isthmus. The Ngöbe-Buglé
comarca is divided into three large regions. Nö Kribo (land of much
water) is the region
on the Caribbean side that was formerly a part of the province of Bocas
del Toro. The region that was formerly a part of Chiriqui Province is
called Nedri (land to the west). Kodri (land to the east) is the area
that was formerly a part of the Pacific side of Veraguas province.
people have customs similar to those of the Ngöbe, but they speak
a different language. They occupy the eastern part of Nö Kribo in
and around the Calovebora river valley.
Customs and Culture of the Ngöbe-Buglé People
economy of the Soloy regions consists of migratory farm labor, coffee
bean production, sales of crafts to tourists, and working in the few small
establishments of infrastructure within the community (stores, government
offices, hospital, and schools). The
people live in very modest homes which consist of wood planks or large
branches tied together, dirt floors, and either sheet metal or thatched
mangos, platanos, bananas, rice, and beans are
grown in the area. Coffee is grown in the mountains.
Most of the time, the people eat rice and beans and drink sweetened
coffee. The women wear very colorful,
handmade, long dresses which take 2-4 weeks to sew depending on the intricacy
of the patterns. The men dress
mostly in Western style. Travel
consists mostly of walking or horseback riding, while longer trips require
a Publico Bus or Taxi and 3 hours over a very rocky and difficult
road. Some families work in the fields, but it is very hard to cultivate
the mountainous soil because they do not have any machines. Everything is done by machete or by hand.
Many parents hope that by attending school their children will
not have to work the fields in the future and will obtain better employment
thanks to Phil Young for his expertise. for census information about Panamanian
indigenous people, see his website:
of Indigenous Populations in Panama
more information about Ngobe culture, history and art, see the Ngobe
art and culture site.