The Republic of Panama is divided in nine (9) provinces, three (3) provincial level comarcas and two (2) sub-provincial comarcas. A comarca is a semi-autonomous indigenous region populated by the original indigenous people of Panama. For the purpose of simplification in this site, we have opted for presenting information of the comarcas (with the exception of Kuna Yala/San Blas) as part of the provinces they once belonged to.
1.1 Provincial Comarcas
As mentioned earlier there are three (3) provincial level comarcas in Panama. Formerly there was only one (known to the rest of the world as San Blas) but in the past few years there have been some reforms and the indigenous people have been recognized with their own territories. This is a good thing because we have to acknowledge that they were the original inhabitants of this wonderful region before the times of the Conquest.
- Comarca of Kuna Yala
- Comarca of Emberá
- Comarca of Ngöbe-Buglé
1.1.1 Kuna Yala (San Blas)
The comarca of Kuna Yala is usually known as San Blas by the great majority of people. However, it should be known that it became a semiautonomous indigenous territory in the early 1920's after the Kuna Revolution. In 1925 they adopted a rather odd and controversial flag designed by Waga Ebinkili. Controversial because it contains a swastica, however this symbol is not to be misinterpreted as in ancient Kuna cosmogony the swastica represents the figure of an octopus, the creator of the world with its tentacles pointing to the four cardinal points which gave rise to the rainbow, the sun, the moon and the stars.
The Kuna Yala comarca was created in 1925 with its head of government in the town of El Porvenir.
1.1.2 Emberáa Comarca
The Embera has its capital in the town of Union Chico. The territory of the Embera is split into two large pockets in the south and northeast of the Darien Province and was created by Law 22 of November 8, 1983.
In old school books prior to this new political subdivision the Embera indians were known as Chocoe indians.
1.1.3 Ngöbe-Buglé Comarca
This territory was created in 1997 out of large portions of the provinces of Bocas del Toro, Chiriqui and Veraguas. The capital of the Ngöbe-Buglé is in the town of Chichica.
The Ngöbe-Buglé are actually two separate ethnic groups each speaking its own language; the Ngobe speak Ngabere and the Bugles speak Buglere. In former school books the Ngöbe-Buglé were known as Guaymí indians.
1.2 Sub-provincial comarcas
These are smaller indigineous territories that have been created in the recent years to accomodate for the new political subdivision of Panama. There are two subprovincial comarcas, both populated by Kuna indians (same ethnic group as Kuna Yala)
- Kuna of Madugandí
- Kuna of Wargandí
Madugandi was created in 1996 of of the eastern part of the province of Panama bordering with Darien. Wargandi was created in 2000 in the province of Darien but neighbouring with the Madugandi territory.