Thursday, July 5, 2012
Paradise aka Kuna Yala
The San Blas Islands.
The indigenous people that live here, the Kuna’s, call their home Kuna Yala. This was the name of the archipelago of tiny islands that dot southern Panama, long before the Spaniards arrived. Officially a part of Panama, the Kuna Indians have ruled autonomously over their islands for hundreds of years.
As we dropped anchor at Porvenir, a rustic dugout canoe containing two very diminutive ladies, pulled up alongside. The Kuna are physically small, rivalled only by the Pygmies of Africa. They were draped in multi-coloured dress, adorned with colourful bracelets and nose rings, and decorated with tattoos. They spoke a strange language, but soon we realized the purpose for their visit. They waved brightly embroidered and appliquéd squares of fabric, known as ‘Molas’, a traditional local handicraft. These tiny, wizened old ladies are very persistent, and we purchased two items before they happily paddled off.
The view before us was almost surreal in its’ perfection; miniature white sand islets dotted with palm trees and grass huts, shimmering in a pool of aqua-marine waters. The Kuna are a matrilineal society where women control the decisions of their daily lives. They are forbidden from marrying outside the tribe, and there are a noticeable number of albinos in the villages. Cross-dressing is also culturally acceptable, and you may see men dressed as women, wearing jewelry and face paint. The villages are a random assortment of bamboo walled huts with sand floors and palm-leaf roofs.
It is difficult to imagine how these simple island folk have adapted to, not only the influx of cruisers with their sailboats visiting the San Blas, but more recently the invasion of cruise ships, which often are bigger than the islands! After seeing their photos on tourist stands in Panama the Kuna now often charge $1.00 for having their pictures taken.
Glug, Glug, Glug!