EMBERA (Colombia; eastern Panama, Ecuador)



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According to Losonczy (1993)[1], the beginning of the menstrual cycle marks the opening of the feminine body to “a cosmic movement, focused on the capacity of childbearing”. The girl in the ambiguous transitional phase between childhood and maturity is represented in initiation rites as an accomplice, seductress, and nurturer of supernatural beings. This transitional status must culminate in marriage and maternity to sustain the cosmic movement of production and reproduction.

An excerpt from Kane (2003)[2]:


“Sex between heterosexual teenagers living at home is traditionally considered a precursor to Emberá marriage. The youths select their own partners. The boy sneaks into the girl’s family’s house under cover of night, when everybody is sleeping, or pretends sleep. This is called “catting” (Sp. gateando). If the parents approve of the match, this is allowed to go on some time, till one morning when the boy finds himself having breakfast with her whole family, and matters are settled. The courtship process includes a measure of freedom and independence and a measure of protection and regulation. These measures are shifting and the pool of partner selection expanding with the development of courtship and sexual activities that take place at regional political congresses and parties”.





Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. VolumeI. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology

Last revised: Jan 2005



[1] Losonczy, A. M. (1993) La Nourrice d’Esprits. La Jeune Fille chez les Indiens Embera du Choco (Colombie), Cahiers Litt Orale 34:157-76

[2]Kane, S. (2003) The Rise of Patriarchy in EmberáIndianVillage Law, Avaangwaamizin: The International Journal of Indigenous Philosophy 3,1:113-39