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Greetings from Panama! My name is Marina Ehrman and I have been a professional tour guide and promoter for Panama Tourism and Travel Company since 2005. I love what I do and am proud to share what my country has to offer. It is filled with endless leisure and commercial attractions, friendly happy people who open their doors to all visitors. Panama is a country of incomparable natural beauty with a variety of tourist attractions, beautiful beaches in the Pacific and Caribbean. The tropical climate year round with its diversified flora, fauna and indigenous groups make it one of the most important of Ecotourism in Latin America. I invite you to know our country’s history, culture and also enjoy the cuisine, folklore and traditions that only a place in the world can provide………Panama! Contact me and I’ll organize your visit and will be happy to welcome you in Panama. For more information on Panama, follow my Facebook page and my blog. Visit

Embera Craft: Tagua

Tour Suggested
Embera Indian Community

The tagua nut has a strong resemblance to animal ivory, making it a wonderful resource for creating all types of beautiful things. For many years, the tagua nut was used primarily for making buttons but with new technology and more affordable materials such as plastics, a decline began. Even so, the tagua nut still has value in the making of other things to include chess set pieces, jewelry, handles for canes, dice, figurines, etc. 

The positive aspect of the tagua nut is that just one tree produces enough ivory to equal that of a female elephant trunk, meaning by choosing tagua, innocent animals are spared. Because of this, today we see the tagua nut again becoming very popular as more and more people are fighting to protect endangered species used for ivory. The only downfall is that these nuts, which grow in the rainforests of Panama, Ecuador, and a few other places around the world, are all harvested by hand to ensure the trees are not harmed. As you can imagine, the process is labor intensive. However, it does create needed jobs in these areas of the world!

The other benefit of using the tagua nut from Panama is that the rainforest is being protected as a sustainable income for the people. By growing these trees and keeping them harvested, forests are not degrading into poor quality land. That means the rainforest can remain a beautiful part of our world while the local tribesmen have income that helps when caring for their families.

The tagua tree is more like a palm tree that will grow upwards of 30 feet tall. Thriving on the damp areas of the rainforest, you will actually find different species of the tagua palm. As the tagua nut grows, it develops into protected clusters, each consisting of several egg-sized nuts. When the nuts are young, they are very tender, almost jelly like. Inside the young nuts is a special type of liquid that the people living in the rainforest love to drink. Additionally, many of the animals eat the tagua nut as a part of their regular diet. Then, as the tagua nut matures, it becomes extremely hard and durable, thus becoming a perfect choice for magnificent creations.
Tagua nut carvings from Panama have been such a great source of income for the forest people, giving them back self-sufficiency and pride. Many of these people are no longer able to live a full tribal life simply because of the demise of the rainforest so this type of harvesting allows them to retain their sense of self and history. Today, we sadly see many highways and modern buildings being built right through rainforests, causing this natural resource to erode. The good news is that many organizations have been formed to protect this type of land, with great success.

Once the tagua nuts are picked from the ground, the artisans carve them into amazing pieces. Interestingly, these carvings are so detailed and perfect, that many have become prized collections throughout the world. You will find that many of the tagua nut carvings from Panama depict the nature of the rainforest to include monkeys, birds, and various other animals. In fact, the carvings are typically considered an artistic expression for these tribal men, giving them the opportunity to incorporate their feelings, dreams, and aspirations into the designs.

In addition to figurines, the tagua nut is also commonly used for making everyday eating and cooking utensils. Some of the spirit sticks were used for ceremonies by the rainforest shamans (witch doctors) as well

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