Lessons and memories from the Web of Life

Tropical biologist Alicia Ibañez, left, with the author on the Tuira River in Matusagaratí. (Provided photo)

Estas son las olas de la mar (These are the waves of the ocean)
Estas son las olas que van y viene (These are the waves that come and go)
Estas son las olas del Río Tuira (These are the waves of the River Tuira)
Estas son las olas de mi Darién. (These are the waves of my Darién.)

- Darién Bunde y Bullarenge, two traditional musical styles of the Afro-descendant people of Darién

Now that I'm back home in Mexico, Panama lingers in my memory like the sharp taste of Café Durán on the back of my tongue. Swaying to the lively beat of Bunde y Bullarenge, a collection of the traditional music of the Afro-Darienitas, I think of the people who made this music and the person who gifted us with it: Hermel López, one of the speakers at the June 22-July 1 Web of Life retreat organized by the Maryknoll Sisters of Panama.

For 10 days in the tropical rainforests of Darién and the urban landscape of Panama City, scientists and academics converged with theologians, sisters, writers and spiritual seekers to explore the places where ecology, spirituality and science intersect in the context of the web of life.

An indomitable spirit himself, López represents the best of the Afro-Panamanian culture and of his native Darién. He told us of the cimarrones, the escaped slaves who made their way down into the jungle where the hacienda owners feared to follow and made a life there among the boa constrictors and the jaguars in the lands of the native Kuna. He told us of the importance of the vast network of wetlands and rivers and lagoons that make up Matusagaratí, place of legends and lore for Darienitas since time immemorial.

Read the full story at Global Sisters Report.

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