Guna Yala and its People


Guna Yala

Guna Yala (original name), also known as San Blas Islands (colonial name), is a unique place in the world where men has managed to live in harmony with nature without destroying it. The 365 islands of Guna Yala are a string of pearls in front of the Panamanian Caribbean coast. Each island represents one day of the calendar and each island is different to the rest with its white beaches and crystalline waters which change their colour depending on the seabed. You can walk some of the islands in half an hour barefoot while others are bigger and wilder. Some islands have wrecks that are still hiding pirates secrets and islands where Gunas have their communities. Some islands are lost in the middle of the sea, where you can hear waves breaking on the coral reef. There are places where you can swim from one island to another because they are so close together and water is not very deep. There is one island for each kind of person! You just have to discovers yours!

Gunas are one of the original people of America before the white man invaded the continent. Thanks to their proud and their fight, today, Guna Yala is an autonomous region from the Panamanian Government. Furthermore, this land is free of concrete, roads, pollution, stress, tight timing, artificial noise… Everything moves at natural rhythm and the people have been able to survive to western logics and to develop a sensible tourism according to their lifestyle. Here, not rich people, but elderly and knowledgeable people are in power. The meet in the Congreso General Guna (political affairs) and the Congreso General de la Cultura (cultural and spiritual affairs). Money doesn’t rule here, nature does.

Guna indigenous fishermen at work

Guna indigenous fishermen at work

Families in Guna Yala live from what they crop in the forest like banana, yuca, corn, sugar cane, coconuts. They also fish using traditional and sustainable techniques. The fight between nature and man is fairer because reproduction velocities are respected. Nowadays, with tourism and dollars coming in, Gunas have started buying some metallic roofs, and small industrial crafts, but they don’t forget their strong roots and traditions.

Guna Handcrafts

Guna Handicrafts

Traditions have stayed alive from generation to generation through their dances and celebrations. For example, molas, which are traditional hand-made clothes represent the ancient paintings they used to do on their own bodies. Now, producing molas is the main activity for women and they use colorful fishes, birds and geometrical shapes.

Find more information about San Blas Islands.