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Formerly known as guaimí people, they prefer to be called “ngöbe people.” In Costa Rica there are five ngöbes territories, all located in the southern region:  Coto Brus, Conte Burica, Alto Laguna de Osa, Abrojos de Montezuma, and San Antonio. The rest of the ngöbe population lives in Panamanian territory. One of the ngöbes’ territories is located in the canton of Osa. It is the Indigenous Ngöbe Territory Alto Laguna. It limits with the Corcovado National Park and to get there is through the route La Palma, (Golfito). It has around 2713 hectares, and a large proportion of its area is primary forest or almost not disturbed. The “Guaymí of Coto Brus Territory” (as still reads in official documents) was the first formally established ngöbe territory in Costa Rican lands. Part of this territory is in the canton of Coto Brus and another part in Buenos Aires. 



The ngöbe tend to move around from one place to the other. Their natural area of action has been the Great Chiriquí, as archaeologists call the area included to the west of Panama along with Costa Rica’s southeast. For a people over 1000 years-old, the national borders between Costa Rica and Panama are somewhat recent and appear not to mean an obstacle for their constant displacement. From the 30’s of the twentieth century, the banana, coffee and African palm plantations became poles of attraction stimulating the ngöbe’s migration, in search of employment sources. These migrations were linked to the jobs offered by the Chiriquí Land Company, horticulture in Boquete (Panama) and coffee culture in Coto Brus (Costa Rica). Lately their presence is noticeable in many parts of the country, even the Central Valley.


Habits and traditions

The ngöbe are one of the indigenous peoples with more robust and valid traditions. The use of the language, the women’s attire, the dance El Jegui or the dance of  the Land Serpent, the traditional balsería  game (fight - "krung kita"-a man throws a big balsa pole to his opponent's ankle) and the magical religious beliefs of their world view, are some of them. They use two different languages: the actual ngöbe speak ngobere and the buglé use buglere or bocotá. But in Costa Rica the most used is ngöbe. 

One of the most distinctive cultural features of the ngöbe people is the dress. It is the only indigenous people of Costa Rica still conserving their traditional outfit.  The ngöbe woman dresses in loose-fitting robes falling to the ankles. These garments are elaborated with colorful fabrics, with edgings, zigzags and color ribbons; are generally hand-made. The men dress as conventional peasants, but on special occasions wear pita hats with a feather headdress, use large necklaces called chaquiras, and facial painting, mostly the ones from Coto Brus. (Borge)



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