The Ngäbe ethnic group, a culture shared between Costa Rica …


(MENAFN – News from Costa Rica)

The Ngäbe-Guaymíes live in several indigenous reservations in the southern part of Costa Rica, in particular on the border with Panama. They form a cultural unit with the natives of the Ngäbe-Buglé tribes in Panama.

History of their artisans and cultural unity

During the European conquest of America, the Spaniards came into contact in western Panama with three different Ngabe, each with a different language. They were named after its leaders: Natá, in what is now the province of Coclé, Parita in the Azuero peninsula, and the most famous, Urracá, in what is now the province of Veraguas.

Chief Urracá defeated the Spaniards time and again, forcing Captain Diego de Albites to make a peace deal with him in 1522. According to historian Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, Urracá was invited by the Spaniards for a peace treaty , but he was arrested and sent to the town of Nombre de Dios, in what is now the province of Colón, he escaped and returned to the mountain, swearing to fight the Spaniards to death. Keep his oath: he and his men were so feared that the Spaniards ultimately avoided fighting with him. Urracá died in complete freedom in 1531.

The Ngabe were divided into two main groups: those on the Atlantic coast (formerly part of Bocas Del Toro), and those in the highlands, on land previously owned by Chiriquí and Veraguas.

They never gave up their independence and maintained their resistance until the fall of Spanish rule in the region. When Panama became independent from Spain and joined Colombia (19th century), the Ngabe remained in the mountains. Currently, the interculturality policy is applied to respect their independence.

Economy and culture.

Their main activity is subsistence farming of maize, rice, beans, cassava, yams and plantains.

Some of the natives have migrated permanently or migrate seasonally to work in Costa Rica’s coffee plantations . Other ways to earn an income are to work on banana plantations or to sell their handicrafts at tourist sites and along Panama’s roads.

Ngabe women make, among their traditional handicrafts, items that are used to dress their families and sell to tourists. This includes bags woven from vegetable fibers (called “kra”), long colorful dresses for women decorated with geometric patterns (“naguas”) and pearl bracelets and necklaces, once used as ornaments in war. Men weave hats from plant fibers for everyday use or for sale.

The contribution of the Ngabes to our folklore is appreciated in the ‘kra’ (called ‘chácara’ in Spanish) and in the ‘painted hats’. Both elements have been incorporated into the clothing of our rural inhabitants.

The population of the Ngabe peoples in Costa Rica is the result of the migration that began in the mid-20th century from Comarca Ngöbe-Buglé in Panama. According to a census carried out by the National Directorate of Migration and Immigration of Costa Rica in 2012, 3,171 indigenous permanent residents live in the national territory, located in 4 reserves: Abrojos-Montezuma, Altos de San Antonio (Coto Brus), Conteburica and Guaymí de Osa, located in the cantons of Coto Brus, Corredores and Osa.

Every October, there is a phenomenon of migration from Panama to work the coffee harvest which lasts until March of the following year, so it is common to observe some of these natives in the townships that produce this grain, like Los Santos, Region of Acosta, Pérez Zeledón, Grecia, Naranjo and San Ramón.

They enter the country through three points on the border with Panama: Paso Canoas, Limón (Sixaola) and Río Sereno (Coto Brus).

In 2018, around 15,000 indigenous Ngabe workers entered Costa Rican territory to collect coffee or work on the banana plantations.

From the year 1990 and thanks to the fight of the Ngöbebgue Cultural Association, Costa Rican citizenship is recognized. From 2012, the National Directorate of Migration and Foreigners began granting temporary residence cards to Ngabe immigrants, to protect them from abuse and facilitate banking or healthcare. Previously, they only entered with a safe conduct issued by the government of Panama.

At Resonance, we aspire to live in harmony with the natural world as a reflection of our gratitude for life. We co-create an inspired and inclusive community, committed to working, living and learning together. We resonate with this deep desire to belong to the beehive and the desire to live the highest version of ourselves in service.


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