The Naso’s Cultural Centre

Taken from a communiqué from the Alliance for Conservation and Development (ACD), 16 June 2009.

Naso Culture Center, still a dream

The Naso are one of the smallest indigenous groups in Panama, with only an estimated 3,800 individuals, and are considered an endangered group. The Naso Cultural Center project is the result of five years of collaborative work within Alianza para la Conservación y el Desarrollo (ACD) and Alianza Naso Tjerdi. During this work, in 2006, a group of representatives of all Naso communities chose to create the center as an important aim to help preserve their identity. With the project we would like to support the Naso cultural revitalization process that started in recent years, paralleling their political struggle with the government for the recognition of their ancestral lands.

This first part of the Naso cultural center project involves three main elements. The first is the refurbishing of a building in one the community that will host the center. The second is the collection of documentation done about, and/or by the Naso, in order to form a small public library. Finally, the third element consists of workshops and recreational activities to: spread the information collected by the center; to facilitate the gathering of new information; and more importantly, to facilitate the transmission of the Naso Culture into the newer generation. May 10, 2009 were the official date that naso people planned to open culture center with a grand ceremony and start with workshops on traditional music and dance.

The creation of a Naso Cultural Center has as its main objective to help facilitating the transmission of Naso traditional Culture to the newer generations through the recompilation of information and different educational and recreational events.

The Naso are in particularly weaken position to confront recent processes of acculturation and globalization because, unlike other indigenous groups in Panama, they have yet to be granted their Comarca, the Panamanian term for indigenous reservation.

Naso cultural center was destroyed along with more than 30 homes by Ganadera Bocas Company. The difference was that the naso culture center was destroyed on the third day of forced evictions carried out by communities of San San San San and Druy due to this center served as a refuge for the National Police of Panama.

We travel to the site to try to defend it, but when we arrived it had destroyed by heavy machine in front of the community who watched as their dreams and work ends badly.

Valentin Santana, king of Naso People said: “our houses, our school, our church and our new cultural center, which was on the eve of its inauguration, were demolished by heavy machinery of Ganadera Bocas, escorted by the National Police of Panama.

They destroyed our towns, but they have not destroyed our hopes to live in peace. The lands where the Naso live have been ours for centuries, but the state of Panama still does not recognize our rights to them, to our own Naso Tjër-Do Comarca. This is why we are vulnerable and defenseless. We are treated like indigenous invaders, in our own lands.

Since April 15th, Naso People are protesting in Panama City, to get goverment respond to his proposal that includes compensation for all damages including the cultural center. “We will NOT walk away from this Plaza until the Government of Panama legally grants us the rights to the lands where we were born. Only then will we return in peace, knowing that no one will evict or hurt us again on our own territory. We will not accept relocation. We want the land where we were born,” was part of special speech of the Naso King to his people.

ACD invites you to support Naso communities, by writing letters of solidarity, signing the press release (, making donations, visiting the Naso camp in Plaza Catedral or staying with them a few days in new Naso houses rebuilt in San San and San San Drui, Bocas del Toro.

Shi Nasoga Unkon / We are all Naso.