Indigenous Migrants Celebrate their Culture, Make Visible the Challenges

Indigenous Migrants Celebrate their Culture, Make Visible the
Challenges – IOM’s Regional Office in Costa Rica is
joining the International Centre for the Human Rights of Migrants
and other partners, including Ngäbe-Buglé migrants, to
celebrate the national “Month of the Migrant”.

With the theme: Nï ngäbë büklë
srïbï kä dïë mïkäkä
(celebrating the contributions of the Ngäbe-Buglé), the
migrants will share their music, their experience, and their
culture with the people of Costa Rica.

Every year an estimated 12,000 men, women, and children of the
Ngäbe-Buglé indigenous tribe travel from Panama to
Costa Rica to work the coffee harvest.

“If you live in the lush green valleys of Los Santos or
San Vito, the presence of thousands of Ngäbe-Buglé
migrants working in the fields is as much a part of the landscape
as the trucks brimming over with bright red coffee beans.  But
for many Costa Ricans, the details of the lives of these migrants
are often hidden from sight,” explains IOM’s Rosilyne

In San José, music lovers who will gather tonight to hear
the popular band Malpais play live at the Jazzcafe club will also
hear traditional indigenous music; a portion of the proceeds from
ticket sales will support IOM’s ongoing health project on
coffee farms, Finca Sana.

A video forum next Tuesday, in collaboration with the National
University and the Ministry of Women, will showcase the experience
of women migrants, and photos taken by a group of
Ngäbe-Buglé youth will be featured at the
Children’s Museum in early October.

The Ngäbe-Buglé are a transborder migrant group,
with a large community in Panama, a smaller community in Costa
Rica, and a mobile population that travels back and forth. 
Migrants arrive in September and follow the coffee as it ripens,
some staying up to seven months.  Most manage to save about
US$500, enough for them to return and subsist in their home
community in Panama the rest of the year.

Though vital to the coffee industry, the migrants often live and
work in difficult, sub-standard conditions, and face barriers in
accessing basic social services.  Many farms have minimal
access to potable water, cooking areas, or sanitation
facilities.  Often multiple families are crowded into small
rooms with the animals that travel with them.  Child
malnutrition and diarrheal disease are common and rates of
vaccination are extremely low.

In an effort to respond to their health needs, the national
public health system (Caja Costariccense de Seguro Social or CCSS)
has been sending mobile teams to coffee farms since 2003, and
recently expanded this effort into a second region along the
migration route.  In 2007, IOM joined forces with the CCSS,
training indigenous health promoters to carry out health education
on the farms as part of the Finca Sana project.

Indigenous labour migrants are common throughout Central
America, often facing extreme levels of marginalization and
exclusion.  IOM hopes the Finca Sana project can serve as a
model that can be applied elsewhere in the region, and is currently
discussing with partners ways to expand the project into

For more information please contact:

Daniel Redondo

IOM Costa Rica

Tel: +506. 2221.5348 ext 242

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