Lynn & Mike ..around the world
Mike Drinkrow & Lynn v/d Hoven
Mon 13 Jun 2011 17:30
09:35.25N 078:52.84W Chichime, Kuna Yala (San Blas)
We arrived into the San Blas Islands few days ago. This 80nm long archipelago of over 300 islands is the autonomous region of the Kuna people. These beautiful islands are small and flat, covered with coco-palms, surrounded by white beaches, The local families live in huts made of cane and palm leaves, no man-made construction materials are used. Remarkably these huts stay dry in the torrential tropical rainfall.
While officially part of Panama, the region is run completely to tribal law. Each island run by a congression of up to 3 chiefs, with tribal medicine, custom and their own unique language. While all the chiefs seem to be men, the custom has the man moving into his wife's family home, and the women control the finances. The Kuna have fought hard to maintain their culture and still live as their ancestors did many years ago, fishing and collecting coconuts. Non-Kuna people are prohibited from settling here, or from marrying into the Kuna.
The Kuna are also very famous for their unique art.. the Mola. These are 2, 4 or 5 layers panels of fabric that are decorated with appliqué and embroidery. A pair of panels are traditionally made for the front and back of a shirt - but have become very popular with collectors for wall hangings or cushion covers. The detailed delicate work is quite incredible with thousands of perfect stitches on each panel, depicting local animals and traditional patterns. The traders are quite persistent rowing out on their dugout canoes, and well aware of the value of a good mola, which can fetch $100. Yesterday we were visited by Venancio, a master mola maker who showed us and sold us, some of his best work. Sadly the photo cannot show all the detail of the work.
We are anchored between two small islands, Uchutupu Pipagua & Uchutupu Dummet, each with one family in a few huts. Although not that busy, there is a fair amount of traffic passing though, particularly yachts filled with back-packers taking the scenic route to Cartegena. There is no way from Panama to Columbia by land through the Darian Gap - a thickly forested area on the south east side of Panama, as a road has never been built. So there is brisk business in transporting people, bikes and motorcycles via private yacht. For $450, the travelers get a food, a bed/ hammock and a whistle-stop tour of the San Blas islands on a 4 day trip to Cartegena.
We will move on to another one of these scenic islands later today - this is where we are anchored