The Ngäbe-Buglé Tribe – The ancient tree embraces the green sprouts of the Panamanian specialty coffee
The Ngäbe are an indigenous people within the territories of present-day Panama and Costa Rica in Central America. The Ngäbe mostly live within the Ngäbe-Buglé comarca in the Western Panamanian provinces of Veraguas, Chiriquí and Bocas del Toro. They also have 5 indigenous territories in southwestern Costa Rica, encompassing 23,600 hectares: Coto Brus, Abrojos Montezuma, Conte Burica, Altos de san Antinio and Guaymi de Osa. In the early 21st century, there were approximately 200,000 – 250,000 speakers of the Ngäbere language.
Guaymí is an outdated name, derived by the Spanish colonists from the Buglere term for these people (guaymiri). Local newspapers and other media often alternatively spell the name Ngäbe as Ngobe or Ngobe because Spanish does not contain the sound represented by a, a low-back rounded a, slightly higher than the English aw in the word SAW. Spanish speakers hear “a” as “o” or “a”. Ngäbe means “people” in their native language of Ngäbere. Numerous Ngäbe has migrated to Costa Rica in search of work on the coffee farms. Ngäbere and Buglere are distinct languages in the Chibchan language family.
Ngäbe territory originally extended from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea, though there was never an empire or a distinctive “ Ngäbe territory”. Most Ngäbe live in dispersed villages, which were run by chiefs and influential families. Few, if any, Ngäbes occupied the mountains region in which they now live. They retreated to that area under pressure from Spanish colonists and the development of low-lying areas.
Christopher Columbus and his men contacted the Ngäbe in 1502, in what is now known as the Bocas del Toro province in northwestern Panama. He was repelled by a Ngäbe leader with either the name or title of Quibian. Since that contact, the Spanish conquistadors, Latino cattle ranchers, and the development of large banana plantations successively forced the Ngäbe into the less desirable mountainous regions in the west. Many Ngäbe were never defeated in battle, including the famous cacique Urraca who in the 16th-century united nearby communities in a more than seven-year struggle against the conquistadors. Those Ngäbe who survived on the outskirts of the region began to slowly intermarry with Latinos and become part of what is now termed Campesinos, or rural Panamanians with indigenous roots.
In the early 1970s, the Torrijos administration tried to encourage the Ngäbe to form more compact communities by building roads, schools, clinics, and other infrastructure in designated points. in what is now Comarca Ngäbe- Buglé. This marked a social change in lifestyle, as formerly dispersed villages and units did converge and form larger communities.
In 1997, after years of struggle with the Panamanian government, the Ngäbe were granted a Cormarca or semi-autonomous area. The majority now live within its Boundaries.
The Spanish found three distinct guaymi tribes in what is today’s western Panama, each was named after its chief and each spoke a different language. the chiefs were Natá, in Coclé province, Parita in the Azuero peninsula, and the greatest chieftain Urracá, in what is now the province of Veraguas.
Urracá became famous for defeating the Spaniards time after time . He forced Diego de Albitez, a Spanish captain, to sign a peace treaty in 1522. He was betrayed and sent in chain to the town of Nombre de dios on the Atlantic coast. According to historian Bartolomé de las casas, Urracá escaped and returned to the mountains, vowing to fight the Spaniards to the death. He fulfilled his oath. The Spaniards were so afraid of Urracá that they avoided engaging his forces. When Urracá died in 1531, he was still a free man.
The Ngäbe live in two large groups: the lowland group along the Atlantic coast and the rainforest group in the highlands of Veraguas and Chiriqui province. They never surrendered and fought until the fall of the Spanish empire at the end of the nineteenth century. When Panama split from Spain and joined Colombia in the 19th century, Ngäbe remained in the mountains. In the 21st century, some are gradually integrating into modern society.
The fragrant specialty coffee seeds in Panama grew up in the protection of mother nature, from the abundant water, the quintessential soil and the diligent hands of the people here. The sweet aroma of coffee beans contains both the love of freedom and the abundant vitality of the Ngäbe-Buglé Tribe. Discover more great stories from Ngäbe people and the coffee they take care of every day at 43 Factory Coffee Roaster!
Source: Ninety Plus Coffee