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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Huerbsch

Malama Honua - Panama

Updated: Sep 27, 2020

On January the 15th, 2017, I made a public commitment to spread Malama Honua to Panama's native community. This commitment was made during a special dinner that CREBA (Club de Remo de Balboa) hosted in honor of Nainoa Thomson, the president and founder of the Polynesian Voyaging Society. Present were representatives of the Panama Canal Authority, Four Worlds, Inter Tribal Youth, the Metropolitan School, as well as the organization Earth Train.

The first phase of honoring this commitment was by integrating two cayuco teams into Panama's cayuco racing community. Under my recommendation as president of CREBA, the club agreed to sponsor the teams race fees, trailer and cayuco, and I helped caddy them to and from their events, donated them paddles, life-jackets and the necessary equipment to begin their training process. After two years of cayuco racing, the group that goes by the collective name of Demar Burba (spirit of the sea) has grown in notoriety. They have been invited into the local dragon boat community, stand up paddle events, and have been able to receive sponsorship by the local paddle gyms. On September 18th 2019, there was a short documentary of the group made by local paddler, Mario Pineida (link provided below).

The arrangement made between CREBA and Demar Burba was that in return for the sponsorship provided by the paddle club, the group would share their local culture and traditions based around paddling with the existing community of competitive paddlers. On October 10th and 11th, they accomplished this by organizing a select group of paddlers that have supported them these passed 2 years, to journey with them to Isla Tigre within the Kuna territory of Kuna Yala, to partake in their largest cultural festival. This was a historic moment as 4 competitive cayucos, as well as 2 oc-1 outrigger canoes were ferried several hours over to Isla Tigre. The hosts of the festival were very gracious and honored us paddlers which a chance to share our cayucos with the different groups of Kuna's who had paddled (some as long as over 8 hours) in their native cayucos to be part of the festivities. It was truly a beautiful moment to see the interest and joy that was found within both groups as they experienced using these evolved forms of their traditional canoes for the first time, while Demar Burba officiated the event. I remember thinking how amazing it was to see this group that I took to the water the first time they ever paddled one of our racing cayucos, that could barley keep from huli'ng were now training their local community and sharing everything they had learned these past couple years. Suffice it to say that a strong connection was established between both communities, as well as many new initiatives.

Documentary by Mario Pineida, UrBipi - The First Cayuco

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