The land of Kuna Yala!!!
15 February 2008 | San Blas (Kuna Yala) Panama
We have been in the San Blas (also called Kuna Yala) since about a week. The Kuna Indians rule over those islands located west of Colon on the Atlantic side of Panama. They are a part of Panama but very attached to their independent status. They are the descendent of the Kuna Indians who lived there for centuries and were decimated by the Spanish invaders. However, they succeeded to keep their community alive to this day. They are about 55,000 Kunas left and their law does not allow inter marriage, they would be excluded if they do. It is a matriarchal community, the women are dressed beautifully , they love vibrant reddish colors and their molas (superposed tissues sawn together by hand with geometrical pattern) look beautiful on them; They wear strings of bead rolled around their lower-leg and lower-arms and sometimes a big gold bead in their nose. They love lots of red/pink blush on their cheeks and they are very small in size. It sure looks like they have no problem to maintain their population ratio, there are small children everywhere! We visited a few Kuna villages near the island of Porvenir and Cartisugdup. All houses are made of bamboo sticks and the roof is palm straw (like the chikihut), their streets inside the island are patted earth and extremely clean with touch of colors (flowers, banana trees...) but surprisingly, on the back of each house, on the water, is where they pile what they cannot get rid off along with the out-house right over the water, so much for the bay view! They are nice enough with the tourists but yet it is not what I imagined, of course they see us as a dollar sign, and sometimes want a dollar just to take their pictures, it is unfortunate and I do not want to agree to that yet. We bought some molas and beadwork, Kuna women come by canoe around the cruising boats and we were able to communicate in Spanish and have a conversation and fun with three women, it was a great moment! The weather in February is peculiar, often hazy which is not the best for snorkeling. There are some very nice reefs but it is mostly fished out (a lot less or smaller than the Bahamian waters). The outer islands are the attraction of the San Blas for me, beautiful white sandy inlet covered with palm trees and surrounded by turquoises waters, a dream!!!!The anchorage are pretty busy, always 12 to 15 boats but it is nice and fun! We went to a potluck last Monday on the East Hollandes key and there were some cruisers who were in the San Blas for years, they were very open and eager to help and give advices to the new cruisers in the area, I really appreciated this, it is not always the case and we really enjoyed our evening with everybody.