A Kuna culture

A Kuna culture

Look, if there was one thing that caught our attention on the trip to Kuna Yala (San Blas), it was the culture of the Kunas. As far as the stunning landscapes, understanding a little more about the inhabitants of these islands was a very special experience. I shared a little bit of this with you in my stories, but I decided to make a more detailed post here on the site so you can understand it even more.
A Kuna culture
First of all, it is good to say that when you enter Kuna Yala you really enter Kuna territory – there is even a border where you first pass through a Panamanian government official and then through a kuna. The most important word in that first moment is Noegambi, which means hi and bye. But even if you don’t speak, you will notice the hospitality and joy of the inhabitants that is really impressive.
In total there are 20,000 kunas in the region, but only 3,000 live on the islands. The vast majority live in the forest, so we can already understand that the relationship of this people with nature is very different from ours, right?
A Kuna culture
The food base is basically focused on collection. Coconut, seafood and rice represent almost 100% of the typical dishes of the region – if you are a vegetarian like me, I advise you to bring some beans and vegetables from Panama. Although simple, Paulo ate excellent dishes there, as was the case with a fish prepared by Patrício on one of the islands of Coco Bandero – soon there will be a full post talking more about this island complex 😉
A Kuna culture
Although there is a harmony between people and nature, greater contact with tourists has been affecting Kuna Yala. Animal husbandry, for example, has become more common in some areas, but kunas still do not know how all this logistics works. The first point is that on the islands there is almost not enough food for residents, let alone animals.
The second point is that the inhabitants think that the less the animal walks, the faster it will put on weight. However, what we saw there were animals that were visibly malnourished and bound by tiny chains and chains. Even pigs and chickens: /
This different relationship with animals was also clear with dogs. Cats were very loose, but dogs were always trapped. That was one of the cultural shocks, after all, animals are treated in a very different way than what we are used to, right?
What impacted us most was a monkey that has been attached to a chain for over 2 years. We met him on the island of Nargana, one of the most populated in the region. In addition to being trapped, the pet is fed with snacks and even drinks coke. Very, very sad.
A Kuna culture
A Kuna culture
Despite this negative side, you can see that the connection of the kunas with nature is really great. The theme is present even in religion and spirituality. Today, most of the population is Christian, which was strengthened by the arrival of Europeans. However, the basis of Kuna culture is in this connection with nature and, even Christians, talk about it.
What we noticed on the trip is that the number of neo-Pentecostals is increasing on the islands, as are Mormons. The interesting thing is that at the time we went there was even a group of 32 Kuna women who returned from Panama with the mission of evangelizing the inhabitants.
A Kuna culture
Since we talk about religion, why not talk about traditions? You can immediately see that women wear many ornaments. From the moment of menarche (first menstruation), girls wear dozens of multicolored beads bracelets on the forearm and from the heel to the knee. These bracelets are the Winis and their vibrant colors make everything more beautiful – Paulo and I even brought two!
A Kuna culture
Another ornament that caught my attention was the gold ring that some women wore on the septum. This “piercing”, so to speak, is used only after marriage.
A Kuna culture
Another thing that, from our point of view, is quite different there is the way they see privacy. There, everyone lives together and has no idea of ​​a “new home” for newlyweds.
Look, but if you found everything so far interesting it is because you still don’t know what we think is most different about Kuna culture. The society is matriarchal, that is, the women who lead – including they make the springs, one of the most typical handcrafted items in Panama and the main article produced by kunas. These fabrics embroidered with bright colors and beautiful designs are in the typical costumes of women and in several other items.
A Kuna culture
The woman is really highly valued and important to the kunas and, most surprisingly, there, if the couple has 4 male children, the 4th child is treated as a woman by the parents themselves. Homosexuals and bisexuals are very well accepted in the culture and it is even quite common to find transsexuals there. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a culture deal with this issue so well that it shouldn’t be controversial in the first place, right?
Although this issue of sexuality is well accepted, more intense contact with tourists has caused even structural changes in the region. Transformations are taking place both in the economic sphere – because men also start to contribute financially – and in the social sphere.
The impacts of this “interaction” are quite explicit on some islands, such as Nargana and Coração de Jesus. There you find many industrialized, cell phones, televisions … It is as if some areas were in the transition to the urban. With that, it is clear that people start to behave in other ways. Typical adornments and costumes, for example, are increasingly rare.
A Kuna culture
We cannot say that these are only negative or positive changes, but the fact is that Kuna culture is changing – and fast.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.