|The Changuinola River
Bocas Del Toro Province, Panama
(click on any image to enlarge)
| The Changuinola River is the largest river in the Bocas Del Toro Province of Panama. It begins in the Central Cordillera mountains of central Panama and eventually flows out in the Atlantic Ocean on the Carribean coast. The city of Changuinola is located near the mouth of the river and the surrounding lowlands around the city have been converted to enormous banana plantations. As you follow the river upstream from the city of Changuinola the river narrows and becomes more violent as it spills through the foothills of the Central Cordillera. Large rapids form where tributaries deposit large boulders and other debris into the river. The rough terrain and extremely wet weather has prevented much of the foothills surrounding the Changuinola River from ever being developed or exploited, thus a nearly untouched and natural ecosystem is found in here.
The area is however, inhabitated by indigenous indians of the Nobe Bugle. These people live in the valleys and level areas around the river. The average family lives on approximately $200 US dollars a year which they earn buy growing and selling coffee and bananas. These people rely on the Changuinola as a transportation route, water for cooking and bathing, and as a source of food. They subsist on hunting in the surrounding forests and harvesting bananas and cassava from small cultivations.
There are approximately 7 villages of Nobe Bugle along the banks of the Changuinola River, which can only be accessed by either hiking in or taking a boat. The village of Changuinola Arriba is one of these villages which can be reached by an approximately two day boat ride from the City of Changuinola.
The village of Changuinola Arriba was the center of my research activities during the years of 2004-2006. I relied heavily on the villagers for logistical help and daily living solutions. The village was comprised of no more than twenty families, many of whom were descendants and relatives of the village elder and cheif, Daniel Santos (pictured with me below).
I am sad to report that as I was finishing my research in this area, the Panamanian government began a project that would dam the Changuinola River. The initial stages of this project has already caused grave environmental damage and has opened the area up for further exploitation. In addition, the villagers of Chnaguinola Arriba are being forcibly removed from the village which will soon be flooded as a result of this project and forced to create a life in the city of Changuinola with no formal education or resources. CLICK HERE TO SEE THE FINAL RESULTS OF THE DAM.
Navigate the map below using the arrows on the upper left of the map, to see the approximate location of the village of ChanguinolaArriba.