NOTES ON EMBERA PERSONAL NAMES
NOTAS SOBRE LOS NOMBRES PERSONALES EMBERA
Sandra Turbay and José Joaquín Domicó
This paper aims to contribute to the contemporary debates about personhood in South American indigenous peoples through the study of the meaning and functions of Embera personal names in western Colombia. As in other Amerindian groups, the body is socially fabricated within an animistic and perspectival context. However, the Embera believe that the human body is porous and achieves its full potential by assimilating the souls and qualities of other species during childhood. The Embera proper names reflect the close connection between the human being and their natural environment, and most of them are compound words that identify the person with a variety of living beings, geographical features, objects, and spiritual beings. Furthermore, the link between the name and the main soul of the human being, along with Catholic baptism, body painting, and baths with plant infusions, acts as a defense against the attack of spirits. The Embera names individualize the person, serve as markers of ethnic identity, and teach boys and girls values and qualities of their respective gender.