Panama: Visit To Indigenous Village Reveals Developing and Evolving Economy

On Sunday we went on a tour to the Embera Village, a native indigenous people of Panama. The drive was an hour away from our hotel on one of Panama's main highways. The underdevelopment of Panama's infrastructure was clearly evident. The highway was comparable to a back road in New Hampshire with potholes and dirt sections. No one obeys the traffic laws since the enforcing agencies have more serious concerns.

Panama is an emerging market and still developing because basic core infrastructure is still lacking such as the proper maintenance of roads. Another concept that correlated directly to what we have discussed in discussed in class was the huge gap between the rich and the poor. This was detected as soon as you exited Panama City. Panama City reflects the lifestyle of the upper class with tall skyscrapers and and new construction for more innovative plans. As you head into the rural area of Panama the poverty level is easily detected with small houses stacked right on top of each other.

This large gap and unequal sharing of wealth is a major problem in Panama currently. Additionally, on the drive we passed a large, cement factory which was taken over by Mexico. The plants and houses surrounding this cement factory were covered in ash produced by the factory. This has led to an increase in lung problems among the residents  and have damaging environmental effects. Furthermore, as we looked out the window of the bus we noticed there was smoke coming from the vegetation. This was explained that fire was used to keep the roads clear and prevent invasive plant species from getting out of control. But this is very damaging to the environment because when plants are slashed and burned in rapid succession it damages the roots and soil.

Once we arrived at the Embera Village tour departure station we took a canoe ride to a waterfall and the actual Embera Village. At the village we received a warm welcome from the indigenous people and shared a meal that they would normally eat. We learned that due to new environmental regulations they could no longer hunt or grow their own food, thus they resorted to having the tours come through their village to make a profit in order to support themselves. Additionally, the indigenous people make crafts, such as weave baskets, make jewelry and skirts to sell to the tourists. This also contributes to the support and funding of the Embera communities. Tourism is one of Panama's fastest growing industries and Embera contributes to this sector of the overall economy.

Lauren