An estimated population of 15,000 Emberá indians inhabit the Darien rainforest of Panamá. This tribe along with the Wounaan were formerly known as the Choco because they emigrated from the Choco province of Columbia in the late 18th century. Both the Emberá and the Wounaan have a similar culture. Many Emberá Indians also live in the Chagres National Park which is home to several Emberá communities.
Emberá is an indigenous territory (comarca) in Panama. It was set up in 1983 in Darién Province. The capital is Cirilo Guainora. Emberá has a population of 8,246 (2000 census). The area of this comarca is 4,383.6 sq. kilometers.
The comarca is divided in 2 districts.
1. Cémaco (Cirilo Guainora: composed by Cirillo Guaynora,
Lajas Blancas and Manuel Ortega.
2. Sambú (Río Sábalo): Composed by Rio Sabalo and Jingurudo.
The Emberá Indians of Panama are accomplished crafts workers and produce elaborate and detailed tagus carvings from seeds of the Tagua tree. These people are generally quite small and sinewy, and dress as they did when Columbus arrived in the 1500s.
The Emberá lifestyle is primitive but remarkably easy for a forest-bound people. Before the Panamanian government declared the Rio Chagres area a national park, the subsistence-level Emberá hunted and farmed. With the National Park Declaration, they had to find an alternative life style, and have turned to tourism - welcoming tourists to their villages.
Indigenous Indians in Panama