San Blas Islands or Kuna Yala
08 56.73 N 077 45.2 W
Kuna Yala refers to a region of Panama which has been occupied by the Kuna Indians long before the Spanish Conquistadors arrived. Following a revolution in 1925 the Kuna Indians were granted autonomy to run their own affairs yet still remain part of Panama. They strongly protect their culture – they are forbidden to marry outside their race, they still have a chief in each village to ensure all the laws are maintained, both by the Kunas and visitors. Their lives are simple, no cars, few TVs and they live in bamboo wattle wall huts with palm leaves thatched roofs that last longer than tin roofs. All visitors must leave the villages before nightfall as that is when the villagers gather in the largest hut and discuss their day with the chief. It doesn’t matter how small or trivial – which of course makes for a very long evening and many villagers tend to nod off so they have villagers scattered around the room who yell very loudly every now and again to ensure all are kept awake. You must ask permission to take photos and pay a small fee to the chief to ask permission to visit his island and village. The Kunas, although live on good size islands tend to have their huts clustered together. We should find out about that today, when we visit Isla Mulatupu. The islands are matriarchal and the women choose the man they will marry. The women wear gold nose rings and colourful molas. Molas are a textile art form made with appliqués and reverse appliqués. They favour the colours yellow and red. The mola panels are used to make blouses, (mola meaning clothing and blouse dulemola). The patterns they use are to protect the women from harmful spirits.
We have finally arrived in Puerto Escoses and we are all looking forward to calm seas instead of lumpy seas. It is very peaceful here, only one other boat in the bay and about twelve huts, six on land and six on the water, they are on stilts but you can’t see them from the boat so they looking like they are on top of the water. The mountains surrounding the bay are very lush, the tree colours ranging from deep green to bright yellow. We celebrated Ian’s birthday, we were all ready for our filet mignon’s with Béarnaise, vegetables and a chocolate birthday cake with candles. Saturday we had many visitors, the local Kunas came in their dugout canoes or Ulas. They paddle them like we paddle our canoes back home. The younger boys seem to like having colourful square shaped sails on a mast. They are all very friendly, some were selling fish and others just asking for flashlights, mosquito bombs, I guess they are getting eaten alive. We met an elderly gentleman called Frank who was looking for sugar, we only have Splenda so we gave him two packs of Nescafe 3-1 coffee, milk, sugar, & coffee, he thanked us and as he was leaving he said, “No Coffee.” We aren’t what he meant but hopefully will enjoy his coffee.
To-day we are off to Isla Mulatupu and will anchor at Isla Pinos and visit the village of Tupbak.
Ole for now.
DTG to the Panama Canal entrance at Colon: 150 nm ( The next 100 nm covers our San Blas Islands cruising ground and then direct to Canal Entrance)