Summer in Panama: The Goodbye is the Hardest Part

As the Summer in Panama program ended last week, Chassidy Simmons, our Assistant Director, reflects on their journey and last days in Panama with the Embera community. Read the chronicle below, and stay tuned for updates on other Summer in Latin American programs.  


Written By Chassidy Simmons 


In the final week of our Summer in Panama program, we were rather busy. First, we had an activist from the Mayor’s office talk to us about the risks of mining in Panama. Our students engaged with the speaker and her research to understand the dangers that mineral mining brings to the communities in the Republic of Panama. 


After learning more from the environmentalist, a select group of students went to visit the Embera community in the Chagres National Park. These students took a thirty-minute canoe ride to meet with an Embera family in a community called Puru Biakiru in the native Embera language which translates to beautiful neighborhood in English. During our time with this family, we learned about the ways in which this community is able to preserve its traditional Embera customs and ideas. The family showed us traditional Embera dress and compared their dress to modern-day fashion in the rest of Panama. Not only did we learn more about clothing, we learned about the roles of the members of the family. Embera communities divide labor amongst themselves to ensure that no one person is overworked. To finish our trip to the Chagres National Park, we shared a meal with the family--which consisted of fresh fruit, fish, and patacones--and we danced along with the family to Embera songs. 



We are so fortunate to have had the opportunity to study in Panama! From dancing alongside the Congo and learning more about gender roles in the Guna Yala community to swimming along the Caribbean Coast of Panama and watching ships pass through the locks of the Panama Canal, we had a good time. We improved our Spanish, learned more about Panamanian history and culture, overindulged in Panamanian cuisine, and most importantly, made memories that will last us a lifetime.