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Ingenuity, skill and power left by the "silent weapon" to the Wounaan

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Ingenuity, skill and power left by the "silent weapon" to the Wounaan

Sun, 12/09/2018 - 14:36


Raquel Sánchez

Unnoticed and as a decorative object, the silent weapon of the Wounaan indigenous people of Panama is camouflaged, which today in the Western world is not so pretentious, a wrong idea for this great instrument of war and victories that they call bodoquera or in their native language "patt'ër".

Although the view of Bebe is not as accurate, his pulse and memory still describe for Efe the correct way of how to use it. This weapon formed by a wooden tube of up to 2 meters and accompanied by darts is the pride of the men of that ethnic group that live in the Panamanian forest of the Darién.

So does Bebe, a Wounaan from the jungle community of Puerto Lara, 217 kilometers east of the Panamanian capital, who still recalls some anecdotes of his life, where his lungs and blowgun were the perfect companion to protect their environment and at the same time, get food for his family.

He told Efe that since ancient times, even before the arrival of Christopher Columbus on American lands, his ancestors who lived in what is now Colombia had wars with other tribes over the territory and its riches.

The history of this town, which extended to Brazil, along with the Emberá and Gunas, ended in battles and currently live scattered in settlements from Panama to neighboring Colombia.

William Durán, one of the Wounaan inhabitants who reveals the stories of pride, told Efe that the "silent weapon" was the strategy to defeat the gunas, since they were disadvantaged and slower to use the arrows.

"Before these tribes maintained a strong dispute for gold, since the guna wanted to cover the entire area, (...) while they stretched the arrow, and we had hit the target, that's why since that time they are afraid of us," he explains.

Durán points out that the darts were poisoned with the secretions of an arrow frog, the Dendrobates Tinctorius, and as an antidote the natives used honey to avoid dizziness from touching the spears.

With regret, he says that this weapon is no longer used, even he does not know how to handle it, only the elderly and some encouraged people do not let this ancestral war technique die.

Now, the inhabitants are focused on other practices to give a renewed image to the community without leaving behind their traditions and culture that identifies them, such as the sighting of birds, a new segment that they have mixed with their knowledge.

Durán, who is a member of the Agrotourism Society of Puerto Lara, said they are working on a project to bring more tourists from North America, enchanted by the greenery of the Panamanian mountains and the essence of the native tribes.

The agility to listen and see the fauna will be put into practice, now that in January and February will be the fourth bird count in that town.

"We have three routes in the Wounaan community that we will use as the path, the Lara River and the Pan-American Highway, which as a curiosity ends in the province of Darien," he said.

Orioles, parrots and hummingbirds will be the wealth that this indigenous population will present, and that now prepares to welcome Canadians and Americans who will venture to know the treasure of this ethnic group.

He added that the guides of the initiative in the community have counted some 3,000 birds of 200 species. A very modest figure for a country that has more than 940 bird species registered scientifically, according to official information.

He argues that they foresee that a school will be created in the future to prepare other young people, including the Wounaan and the Emberás communities.

In the middle of the demonstration with his patt'ër, Duran sketches a great smile and continues telling the history of the culture and traditions of the Wounaan to the other interested parties who come to the cultural house to take something more than a craft.



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