September 6, 2009
the other Bocas del Toro
On Sunday I visited a Ngöbe Bugle community. Cristobal Island is a ten minute boat ride from Bocas town, where there's surf shops and $1 shot specials. But San Cristobal is a very different place.
Here the Ngöbe Bugle subsistence farm but sanitation problems and scant resources make it a difficult place to live. There are no cars, so a walk through the village weaves through stilt houses and crossing flags of laundry with chickens underfoot.On Sunday morning some kids were away for a baseball match, those remaining danced for a visiting group of long-distance runners.
I am weary of performances set up for visiting dignitaries and the like--often they feel like a brochure-in-motion, a rote recitation of culture. But it was clear moments in that this was more. Those who didn't dance stood rapt. It was not only real, but also a reminder that in many places whole societies must live on just too little. Yet their essence is vital and essential to our world.