The San Blas Islands are a Panamanian archipelago comprising 378 islands and atolls, only 49 of these islands are inhabited.
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San Blas Islands
Geographically they are located in front of the north coast of Panama. The islands are inhabited by the Cuna Indians that occupy the province of the Comarca of Guna Yala, included in the Caribbean coast of Panama. The whole area is perfect for sailing thanks to the constant winds, the islands are famous for their typical Caribbean beauty.
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The Region of Guna Yala (that means region of the Guna mountain) known as San Blas, consists of an indigenous province located northwest of Panama. It has more than 365 islands, with 49 aldeas among them. This region is home to the Guna population, whom through their culture and traditions, have been in charge of protecting natural riches of the area.
The coral islands, with their white sand beaches, are surrounded by crystalline waters whose tonalities of blues, greens and turquoises make them paradises of unsurpassed beauty. This archipelago is delimited by the tropical forests of 320,000 hectares, which grow in the continental region of the Darién, which has also been called the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor.
The Guna community has the custom to make their crops for food and medicine. Traditionally they get up before dawn and move paddling their wooden canoes (cayucos) to the crops to take care of them. At noon they return and during the afternoon they go fishing.
Food and traditions
In its cuisine there is the typical dish “Tulemasi”. It is a fish soup made with coconut, banana and vegetables. Additionally, their diet includes plantain, smoked fish and “sancocho”. Local dressings, such as cilantro and coconut milk, give the food a tropical flavor. Lobster, seafood and fish usually accompany them with “patacón”, rice, yucca and salad
The Guna Yala community
The Guna Yala community has its own political system. Its organization is hierarchical, participatory and democratic. The highest authority represents the Sahilatos as the guides of the community. These authorities, in turn, are subject to the Guna General Congress, the supreme authority of the community. Every six months there is a congress with the participation of the great Sahilas. These meetings are held in the Ombudsman Nega and there, all the economic, educational, health issues, as well as the common themes of the communities.
The Guna language is one of the languages corresponding to the Chibcha family. To date, it has a total of 50,000 to 70,000 speakers. The name of the language in Guna is Dulegaya. This name means “the language of the Guna people”. It is the language of daily use in the comarcas and other Gunas areas. Most children speak it as the native language. Spanish is also commonly used, especially in the field of education and in written documents.
Artistic expression, Molas
Regarding its artistic expression, stand out the textile products known as “Molas”. In its preparation, these are cooked in multi-layer panels using a reverse applied technique.
Molas originate from a tradition of Guna women. This consists of painting their bodies with geometric designs. For this, they used the natural colors available. After the Spanish colonization, the Gunas began to transfer their traditional geometric designs and, later, the reverse application technique. In some ethnic groups, Guna women started in this art long before puberty. It is believed that the oldest Molas are between 150 and 170 years old.
The art of Molas reflects a synthesis of traditional Guna culture with the influences of the modern world.
Guna Yala culture
The Guna Yala have fought for centuries to protect their culture. In 1925, the Indians rebelled against the Panamanian authorities. This insurrection was a response to the intense occidentalization to which they were subjected at that time. During this revolution, the Republic of Tule was proclaimed, which was short-lived. In this revolt, the police were fought, both indigenous and of Latin origin. On March 4, 1925, a peace agreement was drawn up between the local authorities and the Panamanian government. Because of this agreement, a legal treaty was set, formally recognizing the full rights of the Guna community. Guaranteeing its autonomous life and low to its own standards within the Guna Yala region.
.Colors of Guna Yala