Log Entry Start Date -
March 16, 2007
Log Entry End Date -
March 21, 2007
Location(s) Covered - San
Blas Islands, Panama
Weather: Sun-Partly Cloudy,
Cool evening Breeze
Last Port: Colon, Panama
Distance covered since
last entry: 220 nautical
SAN BLAS Islands
some 200 miles along Panama’s Coast, a series of flat, Coral Islands just offshore that offer timeless beauty unique to the Americas. Named
San Blas by outsiders, the region is now called Kuna Yala, which means 'Kuna land'.
They’re Inhabited by the colorful
Kuna Indians, the name of the
indigenous people of San Blas,
whose vibrant dresses and
intriguing Molas have gained
worldwide recognition. The Kuna
women’s tradition to wear gold
nose rings, arm and leg band of
beads, and the colorful Mola
blouse is undoubtedly one of the
most spectacular dress of Indian
women in the Americas.
Living on the mainland until the 1850's, the Kuna moved to the islands to escape insects, snakes, illness, and vampire bats, and to interact with
traders traveling along the Central American coast. Today the Kuna number approximately 40,000, most of whom live in Kuna Yala. Nearly
10,000 live in Kuna communities in Panama City and Colón.
The economy of Kuna Yala is based on agriculture and fishing, they can't just go to the store and pick up food - they have to struggle everyday
with the prospect of hunger, but there is a tradition of international trade. Plantains, coconuts, and fish form the core of the Kuna diet,
supplemented with imported foods, a few domestic animals, and wild game. Coconuts, called ogob in the Kuna language, and lobsters are the
most important export products, and migrant labor and the sale of molas provide other sources of income.
The Kuna are famous for their molas, a colorful textile art form made with the techniques of appliqué and reverse appliqué. Mola panels are
used to make the blouses of the Kuna women's national dress, which is worn daily by many Kuna women. Mola means "clothing" in the Kuna
language. The Kuna word for a mola blouse is dulemola, "Kuna people's clothing."
Our first experience with Kuna was in CHICHIME. There are
a few grass huts on the two islands, Uchutupu Pippi and
Uchutupu Dumat. The women will quickly come out to your boat
in their dugout canoes they call 'Ulu' to offer their molas for sale.
The master Mola maker of CHICHIME is a young man named
Gabino, who lives at the far East end of Dumat. He will visit
your boat with a sampling of his work and welcome you to his
home where he displays his art on clothes-line giving you a
better selection to choose from. His work runs from $20-50 ea.
Understand the difference between the fine work of a master
mola maker piece and the "Tourist" Molas many of the women
and children make. The Tourist mola's are much less detailed
and don't always reflect the craftsmanship of the indigenous
Gambino - Master Mola Maker
Kuna Family leaving our boat
Linton (Puerto Lindo) is
the "waiting room" for
boats sailing between
Colon and the San Blas
Islands. The anchorage
has good holding and is
well protected. Isla
Grande just around the
corner is another option,
however not as peaceful
due to the local boat traffic.
There are no restaurants
in the area.
FROM Linton head N-NW
to CHICHIME dropping the
hook between the two
islands in 35' of water.
Keep an eye out for the
small spit with three
palms, marking the
FROM CHICHIME head S
then East through the
Eden channel and
continue East until you
reach Isla Maqui, known
as the "Holandes". Most
yachts opt for the Western
Holandes and anchor
north side of Banedup,
however we found great
protection on the south
side of Banedup and it
was much less crouded.
The sandy streets were quiet as we walked between rows of neatly arranged huts, their thick thatched roofs nearly
touching. We arrived at a hut with a yellow, blue and red flag on the door identifying it as the Kuna Museum of
Raoul introduced us to Jose Davies who guided us around his collection. He
explained the Kuna creation story, illustrated by a man lying in a hammock above
snakes while a flying dinosaur-looking creature loomed overhead. Other posters
in the dim room depicted puberty rituals, healing ceremonies and burial rituals.
We listened to Jose explain all, including uses of wooden dolls, carved animals,
spiritual guide figurines and miniature cayucos that he held. He spoke English
well and was eager to share the information and answer our many questions.
The most unusual ceremony we learned about that day was that celebrating a girl's puberty. When a girl begins
menstruation her parents announce her onset of puberty to the village. Men create a sacred thatched enclosure for
the girl, where she lies secluded in a hammock for four days. To protect her from evil spirits, she is painted black
with jagua, created by village men who collect the fruit on the mainland and bring it to the girl. If anyone sees them, it
will cause birthmarks on her children so the men announce their arrival by gunfire as their cayuco approaches then
play panpipe flutes walking to her. After she is painted, villagers take turns pouring water over her shivering body to
cleanse her as she transitions into womanhood. Day four, she rejoins her community and is bestowed a name
during lavish festivities.
Kuna Museum of Culture Reviews
Carti Sugtupu or Crab Island , Central America
*Kuna Indians are a Matriarch culture
|Raoul (Ralf) Valdas.
666-29-347 or 66-876-777.
Do yourself a favor and contact Raoul Valdas and book a tour to the Carti Islands. It was the highlight of
our travels to the San Blas Islands. He will secure a boat to take you and your friends for an hour ride
south from Chichime to visit Kuna villages on Carti Sugtupu & Carti tupite.
- Boat Ride $10 - Lunch $5 - Island entrance fee $2 - Museum $2
We left at 9:30 and returned at 4:30. Once we arrived he walked us
through the narrow streets of grass hut homes in the village of Sugtupu.
Followed by lunch at his sisters home that included pop, beer and water,
chicken, fish, rice and salad. The thatched homes are bare inside with
nothing but hammocks hanging and those were moved away to
accommodate us for lunch - some chairs and logs were brought in and
a board for a table.
Gambino Home >
Kuna don't like to get their picture taken. Here a woman displays
her Mola's to sell and holds one up to cover her face. Many now
charge $1 per picture taken.
Kuna girl with Iguana pet
|nothing but a seat over open water. Some are more private than others.
One of us couldn't pass up the opportunity (click on link below)