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Emberá Drúa de Panamá: el precio de vivir en el paraíso
Escrito por Hernán Martín. Fotos: Angélica Guadamuz. / EFE Reportajes    Miércoles, 07 de Julio de 2010 17:40    Imprimir E-mail

Una veintena de casas de madera conforman el poblado Emberá Drúa, en la cuenca hidrográfica del Canal de Panamá, una remota región selvática y tupido bosque tropical. Es lo más parecido al paraíso natural

Hernán Martín. Fotos: Angélica Guadamuz. / EFE Reportajes

El poblado Emberá Drúa está en la cuenca hidrográfica del Canal de Panamá, en la cabecera del río Chagres, una remota región selvática situada a una hora en piragua desde Puerto Corotú, un paraje en el que los indígenas de la etnia emberá embarrancan sus embarcaciones y a donde llega la carretera que les sirve de vínculo con la “civilización” que representa la ciudad de Panamá.
Pese a que llegar de Emberá Drúa al centro de la ciudad de Panamá puede tomar tan sólo dos horas, si los atascos de la urbe lo permiten, la distancia existencial es abismal.
Este poblado de una veintena de casas de madera cubiertas con hojas de palma, al margen de las limpias aguas del río Chagres y rodeado de un tupido bosque tropical, es lo más parecido al sueño que los ecologistas pueden tener de un paraíso natural.
Emberá Drúa “lugar de los Emberá”, explica Mateo Mecha, presidente del Congreso Regional y uno de los líderes de esta comunidad, integrada perfectamente en su entorno natural y constituida por 108 personas pertenecientes a 23 familias.
La comunidad fue fundada el 25 de abril de 1975 por cuatro personas pertenecientes a las familias Caisamo y Ruiz, que habían emigrado de Río Balsa Manoné, otra población fluvial en la también selvática provincia de Darién, fronteriza con Colombia, en busca de nuevas oportunidades y mejores condiciones de vida.
Allí, agrega Mateo Mecha,  llegar a un centro de salud en caso de necesidad tomaba una semana, ya que por tratarse de poblaciones muy pobres, el trayecto en piragua se tenía que hacer a remo. Las mismas dificultades tenían para la venta de sus productos, sobre todo agrícolas y derivados de la caza, que además se pagaban muy mal.
Junto a los Caisamo y los Ruiz, a esta región cercana al lago Gatún, en el centro del Canal de Panamá, se trasladaron desde Darién otros grupos de indígenas emberá, que en un principio fueron estableciéndose aisladamente en las márgenes del río o del lago hasta que, impulsados por una política oficial en tiempos del general Omar Torrijos, se unieron en comunidades como Tusipono, Parará Purú, La Ponga, Gatún, Gamboa o la misma Emberá Drúa, que pueden tener en conjunto unos 800 habitantes.
Pero la creación en 1984 del Parque Nacional Chagres, en un área de 135.000 hectáreas, aunque hasta cierto punto ha supuesto una garantía de preservación de su entorno natural, de su bosque tropical y de su rica fauna, ha limitado en este cuarto de siglo su desarrollo y se ha convertido en un condicionante para su progreso. 
“Como es área protegida, no tenemos derecho a sembrar grandes áreas de terreno, sólo para abastecernos de algunos productos como maíz, plátano, ñame o banano, que no podemos vender, sólo para el consumo de cada familia”, asegura Mecha.
Las autoridades, además de prohibir nuevos asentamientos, sólo les permiten el cultivo de una hectárea de terreno por familia, que es la misma extensión que tenían poco después de haberse establecido en la zona.
Asimismo, sólo pueden cazar para el consumo familiar, y la tala de árboles está restringida a las necesidades de la comunidad de construir casas o fabricar sus piraguas, unas normas que en la práctica los condena a la pobreza.
“Ellos emigraron antes de que en el 84 la región se convirtiese en Parque Natural y eso les ha limitado terriblemente”, asegura Aníbal Pastor, profesor de Antropología de la Universidad de Panamá, que desde hace tiempo conoce esta comunidad y está muy vinculado a ella.
Pastor puso como ejemplo el tamaño de estas familias emberá, que antaño eran mucho más numerosas, de hasta una docena de miembros, pero actualmente tienen una media de cuatro hijos.
“Eran familias mucho más numerosas y tenían toda la cantidad de hijos que podían, pero la restricción a la venta de sus productos y sembrar sólo para su consumo son unos limitantes que han afectado su crecimiento”, explica el antropólogo.
“Cuando se estableció el parque –recuerda Mateo Mecha- el gobierno lo hizo sin consultarnos (…) Siempre toman sus decisiones sin tener en cuenta a los pueblos indígenas”, agrega con resquemor el líder comunitario, que actualmente negocia con las autoridades medioambientales el aumento de sus cultivos a unas 4 ó 5 hectáreas.
“Si (a cambio de ello) es necesario reforestar, se hace el trabajo, no hay ningún problema”, agrega.
Para adquirir los alimentos que no producen, sufragar la educación de sus niños y costearse los gastos de salud, entre otras necesidades, tres de estas comunidades emberá han recurrido al “turismo étnico”, una modalidad de la que son pioneros en Panamá y que consiste en recibir visitantes para que conozcan su cultura y su modo de vida. 
“El único ingreso que tenemos es el de los visitantes y el de la venta de artesanías”, explica Mecha.
Para los emberá, se trata de una tarea en la que participa todo el pueblo y que reporta un beneficio a toda la comunidad. Y para el visitante es un viaje a una cultura ancestral, a un mundo más directamente vinculado con la naturaleza, lleno de tradiciones.
Los emberá siguen viviendo en gran medida como lo hacían sus antepasados hace cientos de años, aunque con las lógicas aportaciones de la modernidad.
Los hombres siguen usando como única vestimenta sus tradicionales guayucos (no les gusta que les llamen taparrabos), aunque ya no los elaboran con corteza del árbol cucuá, como antaño, sino con tela de algodón. Algo similar ocurre con las mujeres, que además de usar sus tradicionales “parumas” (faldas), en los últimos tiempos han comenzado a cubrir sus pechos, que solían llevar desnudos, con collares elaborados con monedas de plata y chaquiras de colores formando diseños geométricos.
Mantienen sus músicas y bailes ancestrales, y siguen pintando sus cuerpos con un tinte vegetal que extraen de una fruta conocida como jagua, un líquido transparente y gomoso que una vez aplicado al cuerpo tarda unas nueve horas en ponerse negro.
Los diseños geométricos y zoomorfos con que se adornan permanecen en la piel algo más de una semana pese al agua y el jabón.
Las viviendas de los emberá tampoco han sufrido grandes cambios, con sus estructuras bien ventiladas y elevadas sobre pilotes para protegerse de los animales, elaboradas con troncos de árbol, suelos de madera y techos de una palma llamada guágara, aunque últimamente también han incorporado planchas de cinc para reforzar las vertientes de las techumbres.
Antiguamente la elevación de sus casas también tenía una finalidad defensiva, debido a los conflictos que mantenían con otros pueblos indígenas, especialmente con los kuna.
“Los emberá han sido históricamente un pueblo bravo que tenía armas efectivas como la cerbatana o bodoquera, con veneno extraído de ranas. Eran temibles”, recuerda Aníbal Pastor, y agrega que hace sólo medio siglo, hacia las décadas de 1950 ó 60, en la zona del lago Bayano, mantenían aún enfrentamientos con los kunas por disputas de tierras.
Los emberá son ahora un pueblo pacífico en el que los hombres cazan venado, conejo pintado y saíno (animal parecido al jabalí) con perro y arpón, pescan con trasmallo tilapia en el río, y fabrican sus piraguas ahuecando troncos de árbol a golpe de hacha.
También realizan tallas de figuras de animales con la madera del árbol conocido como cocobolo y con tagua, una semilla también llamada “marfil vegetal”, y las mujeres tejen además unos cestos muy característicos con una fibra trenzada que extraen de las hojas de una palma que tiñen con procedimientos naturales y que venden a los turistas.
La fisonomía de sus poblados ha cambiado poco. En Emberá Drúa sólo desentona en medio del pueblo una cabina telefónica con alimentación fotoeléctrica que los vecinos dicen que está más tiempo averiada que funcionando, y una placa de energía solar que da para el funcionamiento de la única televisión del lugar, un par de focos y una nevera donde se guarda el pescado que se les da a los visitantes.
También cuentan con una canalización de agua corriente y desde 1996 en este poblado hay una escuela elemental erigida con gran esfuerzo por la comunidad y en la que actualmente hay 33 estudiantes y dos maestros que no son emberá. En ella, los niños aprenden español y, cuando son más mayores, acuden a otra escuela en la capital en la que todos los sábados siguen un programa especial.
Además, dice Mateo Mecha sin poder ocultar cierto orgullo, mantienen a cinco estudiantes en el Centro Regional Universitario de San Miguelito, en la capital.
La culturización de los emberá no les ha alejado de sus tradiciones religiosas. El pueblo tiene su médico tradicional, un experto en plantas  al que siguen acudiendo cuando es necesario, y un chamán, una especie de líder espiritual que tiene visiones, es capaz de comunicarse con los espíritus y les sirve de guía.
En Emberá Drúa el médico tradicional es Elías Ruíz, uno de los cuatro pioneros que a mediados de los años 70 fundaron este poblado –“me gustó aquí a mi señora y a mi suegro, y no queríamos ir para atrás”, recuerda-, que dice conocer cientos de plantas y sus aplicaciones para curar desde el cáncer a meros dolores de cabeza.
Antiguo guía de soldados estadounidenses en maniobras en la jungla, lo primero que destaca de Elías son sus excelentes condiciones físicas para los casi 70 años que tiene. Su padre fue quien le enseñó a él las diferentes plantas y su aplicación en medicina, y él está pasando este legado a dos hijos suyos.
En un pequeño huerto de plantas medicinales que tiene a las afueras del poblado, el doctor Elías, como es conocido, dice tener remedio para el cáncer de próstata, para las fiebres, el cólico, el asma, picadas de culebra, impotencia, reumatismo o los riñones.
A pesar del aplomo con que habla de sus remedios, Elías reconoce sus limitaciones.
“Cuando yo no puedo, yo mando (al centro de salud)”.




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