guna people

My name is Diwigdi Valiente.  I am Guna; an indigenous people of Central America.  I was raised on one island of many, Playon Chico, off the northern coast of Panama. 

In my lifetime, the Guna islands will disappear under the rising sea, creating one of the world’s earliest cases of climate-change refugees.  The children – burwigan in Guna - of my island, are already the unknowing victims. 

For centuries, the Guna people have fled and fought to preserve our cultural autonomy, revolting in the face of government suppression.  And for centuries, we have won. Across the world, indigenous communities like mine; their history, heritage, strengths and struggles, long risked fading away to global westernization.  And now – because of climate change – some risk vanishing all together.

My great passion is developing innovative ideas, generating resources, and networking global change-agents to improve the lives of marginalized, native people - like the Guna of Panama.

I am blessed with a strong family upbringing, good education, and the ability to travel, which allows me to give a voice to those who have traditionally been ignored.  Those people who were once considered ‘uncivilized,’ and forced to assimilate, or taught to be ashamed of their ancestry and heritage.  I strive to help others appreciate the beauty, often hidden and ignored, of these lively, undervalued cultures.  

Child malnutrition, illiteracy, loss of traditional knowledge, alcoholism and poverty are rampant in indigenous populations world-wide. For the Guna, these problems are now compounded with the new threat of becoming climate exiles – stateless and displaced. Through economic development, environmental protection, human rights, sustainable tourism, social entrepreneurship and self-expression, I know my generation can chart a new course for the future. 

 I am a climate change warrior, I am here to protect earth and I believe we humans have the power to leave a safe home for our future generations.

My name, Diwi, in the Guna language, means the spirit who guides those who are dead.

It is my mission to interact with all people from my region and world-wide, acting as a bridge and promoting cultural exchange.  I believe only this understanding can guarantee just, economic development via fair trade and social responsibility.

Intercultural exchange is also vital in developing personal awareness and higher consciousness.  More, it is vital for creating the civilized dialogue, understanding and compassion necessary for a peaceful society in this new, globalized world. I thrive on learning, growing, loving and laughing with people from all different countries, cultures and ethnic backgrounds.  I adore backpacking in the beautiful rainforests, mountains and beaches of Central America.  I love exploring new areas, staying with indigenous communities, and introducing my breathtaking country to visitors from all over the world.

Professionally, I was educated in hospitality and international business in Switzerland, fashion design in Spain, and last february finished my master in economy and finance. But above all, I am a student of the world.  In my (rare!) free-time, I love expressing myself through dancing, painting and other forms of artistic movements. 

Because of the risk my indigenous culture is facing, I created the Burwigan project to spread information and initiate pro-active, government action on behalf of my vanishing island home. In the future I will be organizing new trips for everyone who wants to work with the guna children and take action on climate change while discovering a different culture, paradisiac islands and amazing marine wildlife.

To join me and my friends, the “Love Army,” in helping the children of Guna Yala, (while having fun and enjoying amazing landscapes) please join our mailing list!, follow our adventures on Instagram, and read my blog every week right here!


Edited by Lorin Mallorie

Photo credit: Leygh Allison

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