Does anyone know who the Kuna people are? If you don't, I don't really blame you, I didn't know before we visited Panama.
The Kunas live in the islands of the San Blas on the Caribbean side of Panama. The San Blas Islands are an autonomous area, which means they are independent, they have been since 1925.
It might seem crazy, but the Kuna flag has a symbol that looks exactly like a swastika and it a little strange to see. The Kunas actually picked the symbol before the Nazi's did and it is a Native American symbol for the octopus.
I have been to a lot of Kuna villages and they are pretty traditional, but some more than others. The Kunas don't use a lot of money, they probably make about $50 a year. Because they don't make a lot of money they trade coconuts with the Colombian trading boats for goods. The Kunas may give the boat $25 worth of coconuts ($.40 per coconut is the exchange rate), and get $25 worth of goods. Mostly they farm and fish for food. They also harvest cane and thatch for their houses near their gardens. The Kunas eat very interesting foods, but it is kind of bland. For example they eat lots of fish, lobster coconuts, bananas, plantains, breadfruit and yucca.
The villages are very small and almost always on the islands, even when the mainland is close by. They lived out on the islands long ago for safety, but I think now they live their because the bugs are bad on the mainland. The people live in small huts made with cane walls and thatch roofs. The villages don't have running water so they have to go up river until the water is fresh (it is usually brackish the first mile or so) and bring it back in big buckets. Some islands have natural wells where the rainwater collects. The Kunas also don't have big boats, they use dugouts and sometimes they have patched canvas sails. They canoe all around us and sometimes stop. Sometimes we buy lobster from them, but sometimes they just stop to talk.
The Kuna people are known for being short, I know this because every time I walk around town I am taller than most of the adults. They don't like their picture taken because they believe you are taking their soul. Also walking around town I see lots of older women dressed traditionally with beads on their legs and molas sewn to their dresses and sometimes red paint on their cheeks. The red cheeks keep the bad spirits away. The men wear normal clothes. The kids wear normal clothes, although their are also a lot of naked kids.
As you can imagine, the San Blas and the Kuna people are very interesting. If you get a chance to go, you should visit, but hide your camera.
We don't have wifi out here, but my Mom will post some pictures when we get a chance (obviously not with many photos of Kunas).
The following pages chronicle the journey of the sailing vessel Pelagic and her crew. We are a family of 5; Michael, Amy, Zander, Porter and Anakena, taking our 42' Hallberg Rassy as far as we can comfortably go in three years. We left Oregon in September 2014, participated in the 2014 Baja Haha, continued on through the Panama Canal, into the Caribbean, up the coast of the US to Maritime Canada and from there crossed the Atlantic. After an arrival in Ireland we toured Scotland, then sailed down to France, Portugal and on to Morocco. In January of 2016 we slowed down considerably and enrolled the kids in a local Spanish school in Sanlucar de Guadiana for a few months. In the spring of 2016 we crossed the Atlantic towards the Caribbean. We are now in the Pacific, officially on our way home, albeit via a very circuitous path. We are currently in French Polynesia and looking at weather windows to Hawaii before finally making landfall back in the Pacific Northwest.
Currently our exact location is not available. Our spot coverage will pick us back up in Hawaii towards the end of May, 2017.
Our favorite sailing quote:
"If anythings gonna happen, it's gonna happen out there boss!" Captain Ron