Travel Tuesday: San Blas Islands, Comarca Kuna Yala, Panama

San Blas Islands, Panama - Travel Tuesday - 1000 Places to See Before You Die

The indiginous people of Panama are called the Kuna. They are an ancient tribe, and in modern times they live in several reservations on San Blas Islands in the Caribbean. Ancestors of the modern Kuna migrated to the islands centuries before they were discovered during the Spanish Invasion of Central America and Uruba. Their traditional society of trading, of rugged dugout canoes sliding over still water, and of living off the land sounds like a modern idealist's dream.

The Kuna's economy is strongly merchantile; they make and sell traditional textiles, called molas, with bold and distinctive patterns. One of the Kuna market vendors is pictured here, in our 1000 Places to See Before You Die Page-A-Day® calendar (photos below from Flickr, credit Ben Kucinski.

San Blas Islands - Ben Kucinski - 1000 Places to See Before You DieSan Blas - Ben Kucinski - 1000 Places to See Before You Die

Long ago, the Kuna—certainly enjoying the beautiful weather and mild climate of the Caribbean Island—wore few clothes. Instead of shirts or other garments, they decorated their bodies with bold, colorful designs. Missionaries brought clothing along with gospel, and taught them to make their own. The Kuna copied these designs they used to paint on their bodies on molas, rectangles of fabric, which they wore as clothing.

If you visit, it's likely you will also be tempted to wear very few clothes. Definitely leave your suit at home, because there will be no meetings, no power lunches, and no one pinging you with moved up deadlines and urgent "fires" that need your immediate attention. The only fire you'll be seeing is a bonfire on the beach. Hopefully you'll drink something delicius out of a coconut, and you'll definitely feel like a new person after bathing in the teal waters of the San Blas archipelago (photos below from Flickr, credit Ana Freitas).

San Blas - Ana Freitas - 1000 Places to See Before You DieSan Blas - Ana Freitas - 1000 Places to See Before You Die 

Read on for more on 1000 Places to See Before You Die book and calendar line from Workman Publishing and Page-A-Day. 


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