Thursday, 16 April 2009

The People of El Chocó

In the Department of Chocó , 85% of the population are Afro-Colombian, descendents of Africans brought to the region by the Spanish to work the mines in the first decade of the sixteenth century. The Afro-Colombian community has a rich social and cultural heritage, which finds expression through music, language and dance.

In 1991 the Colombia Constitution gave Afro-Colombians the right to collective ownership of traditional Pacific coastal lands and to special cultural considerations. Despite the wealth of natural resources and preservation of ancestral traditions and culture, 82% of the population live with unsatisfied basic needs. Large companies have reaped the wealth of the mining and forestry resources, leaving the people with extremely poor living conditions, the poorest in the country, whilst the armed conflict in Colombia has served to displace a large percentage of the population.

A part of the population in Chocó are comprised of the Indigenous Native Indians called the Embera. The Embera are Colombia's third largest indigenous group with an estimated population of around 71,000. Mainly hunters and gatherers, they are a nomadic people found in different regions of the country although half of the population resides in Chocó. The Embera are also being displaced by the armed conflict.

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