We sailed to Isla Tigre, a Kuna village close to the mainland.
On the 25th of February every year Kunas from the neighbouring islands gather here to celebrate the independence from the Panama government after the revolt in 1925, called the Tule Revolution.
Kunas were persecuted and brutalised to give up their traditions and believes in the name of progress, education and integration, but they stood up for their culture and are today one of a few Indian Ethnic groups living in freedom and autonomy. The chiefs decide on the rules and every day the community meets in the ‘congreso’ to voice and hear about village and community matters.
Traditional Dancing, notice the girl with the long hair and no beads on her legs.
At puberty girls go through the ritual of receiving their Kuna name, having their hair cut short and decorating their legs with beaded strings.
The whole community (and visitors) are present to honour this ‘right of passage’ in the chicha hut (the celebration hut; chicha is a fermented cane sugar drink, slightly alcoholic and drunk on special occasions)
With modernisation, not all girls cut their hair but until puberty, girls are called by a nickname.
Kunas are friendly and accepting to foreign visitors but foreigners will not be able to settle in Kuna Yala.
All businesses, restaurants and hotels are run and owned by Kunas, who are free to leave and live a more western life in cities, they will be excommunicated but tolerated for visits.
In Tigre for example, Kunas are not allowed to visit and board yachts. Yet away from their village working on the outer islands there is more freedom and we enjoyed our Kuna visitors.
There are many re-enactments of the past during the celebration; the first part shows local families being attacked and brutalised by the Panama Police force prior to the Kuna rebellion,
the acting is very real and emotional for all present.
Blowing the conk has various meanings, depending on the context
During the rebellion Panamanian policemen and children of mixed blood living in the islands were killed.
“Only the intervention of the U.S. prevented a bloody retribution by the armed forces of Panama” says our cruising guide.
A well kept hut in Tigre
There were 5 other yachts in the anchorage and we all had a drink together after the re –enactments.
In the evening until deep in the night was a special congreso together with several chiefs from other islands but we decided to go back ‘home’
as we had no interpreter and were rich with overwhelming experiences.