[11.2017] When I added Panama City as a stopover on my way to Cuba, my only goal was to see the Panama Canal. But, I learned even more about the Panama Canals when the tour guide from Panama Day Trip asked if we’d be interested in seeing the Embera Village where the tribe lived.
With the development of the Panama Canal, the ecosystem of the whole area shifted. The river going from Atlantic to the Pacific was flooded, which meant that the animals had to escape to higher grounds, and people physically moved some of the animals, like monkeys, to save them. The whole area also became a protected area, which means the tribes in the area, like the Embera, could no longer hunt or fish in the area, taking away their main sources of survival.
Visiting the Embera Village was an eye opening experience. The Emberas now depend on tourism as the main source of survival, but at the same time, you could tell the villagers did not enjoy having tourist gawk at them. This is one of the things about tourism that I struggle with- it dehumanizes people, but they need it to survive. I’ve seen it way too often in developing countries. I try to have real interactions with the people as opposed to treating them as if they’re on display and hopefully, I learn something new. Thankfully, one of my friends spoke Spanish, and we were able to learn a bit more from them.
If you ever tour an indigenous tribe, please realize that they are human too and treat them with kindness.
I highly recommend going on tour with https://panamadaytrips.com/ ! John and Jerin are not only knowledgable about Panama and animals, but also, genuinely cared about the villagers and the members in the tour group. Unlike other tour groups I’ve been on, they do not try to commercialize too much on these tours!