I visited the San Blas islands long, long ago, I was in my early twenties. My Grandfather, Rogelio Arosemena, who was a man of great zeal and adventure, took his 5 Granchildren for a weekend visit. We flew from Panama City to San Blas, in a prop plane that seated 9 passengers: 2 pilots, 1 Grandpa Arosemena, 5 Arosemena Grandchildren and a dear friend, Bill Weldon.
It was a weekend excursion I will never forget. We were on a tiny island, very little in the way of accommodations, surrounded by the most beautiful shallow, calm, crystal clear blue waters ever. The fresh air was constant. It was paradise fresh, packaged with a sizzling hot sun and a hint of salt in every breath.
Meals consisted of fresh caught lobster and coconut rice, we did not have electricity in the evenings; we did have music, dancing, and parties at islands near by. We island hopped in dug out "pangas" with outboard motors, the visit to San Blas divine, divine, divine.
When I am in Panama in the next few weeks, I am headed back to San Blas. This time we will drive to a location 2 hours outside of Panama City, then board a small boat and visit four islands. I am so excited.
How wonderful that corners of the world still exist where a day is indeed long, where day trading is based on coconuts and fish, where customs remain constant and where the beauty and glory of nature trumps any other consideration or option.
About the Kunas:
The greatest number of Kuna people live on small islands in the comarca of Kuna Yala or on the islands off the coast of Panama, known as the San Blas Islands. In Kuna Yala, each community has its own political organization, led by a Saila . The Saila is traditionally both the political and spiritual leader of the community; he memorizes songs which relate the sacred history of the people, and in turn transmits them to the people. Traditionally, Kuna families are matrilinear, with the bridegroom moving to become part of the bride's family. The groom takes the last name of the bride as well.Today there are 49 communities in Kuna Yala. The region as a whole is governed by the Kuna General Congress, which is led by three Saila Dummagan ("Great Sailas").
The Kuna are famous for their bright 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 Tulemola, (or "dulemola") "Kuna people's clothing."