Emberá and Wounaan - Settlements

The Emberá and the Wounaan historically lived in household settlements of one or more extended families. Houses were circular, unwalled, thatched-roof, post-and-pole structures, some as large as 15 to 20 meters in diameter, with split-palm floors elevated 1.5 meters or more above the ground. The houses were scattered along the levees and high alluvial terraces of clear water streams; intervening forests shielded neighbors from each others' view, thus forming loose clusters or "sectors" of closely related families along a river.

Today villages dominate the Emberá and Wounaan cultural landscape. Houses are smaller, commonly with board floors and partially divided interiors, and households usually consist of only one extended family. Most villages have a school, meeting hall, and a store or cooperative; many have a church, health center, and basketball court. Most villages have several hundred residents; the largest village, Union Chocó—the comarca capital—has ninety households and about 600 inhabitants. Rain forest around the settlement has been replaced by cultivated fields and fallow.

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