Guna yala (until recently known as Kuna yala), the wonderful group of Caribbean islands also known as San Blas Archipelago, is one of the most haunting paradises one has ever had the opportunity to enjoy.
guna yala is an archipelago located in the Caribbean Sea formed by approximately three hundred islands, most of them very small and surrounded by a crown of irresistible white and coral sand. These paradisiac beaches of clear and temperate waters, often solitary or crossed only by a small handful of travelers, suppose one of the best tourist claims of Panama.
guna yala has remained isolated from civilization for centuries. Until just a few years ago it was only possible to enjoy this paradise thanks to the daily flights that connected Panama City with some of the islands. However, the construction of a road linking the Pan-American with the Port of Carty (from which a good number of these islets can be reached by sea) has made it easier for travelers to navigate this natural wonder more economical. Puerto de Carty is only a couple of hours from the Panamanian capital.
Kuna yala Panama
THE GUNA, THE PROUD INHABITANTS OF GUNA YALA.
guna yala has been populated for some centuries by the guna Indians who, it seems, could have originated from the Darien. It is they who impose their rules, thanks to a treaty with the Government of Panama that guarantees them a frankly important degree of autonomy.
There are 49 guna communities in which the guna yala region is divided. Although most of them are island communities, some are located on mainland. Each community has a village chief, known as sail, who is elected by universal suffrage. Shayla is the representative of the community before the guna General Council, which meets twice a year and is responsible for coordinating actions that concern the entire guna people, although each community has a high degree of Autonomy that allows them to organize themselves according to their own norms.
This almost total autonomy has prompted the Government of Panama to limit education and health in guna yala. This is how the guna, who do not pay taxes to the state, try to preserve their culture and traditions, while trying to remain self-sufficient, something that with the help of responsible tourism, are something closer to achieve.
The guna are a matriarchal society. It is the daughters who inherit the lands of the fathers. They are also the ones who maintain the traditional dress with which they have been dressed for centuries. Spring is, in this sense, the most outstanding garment. It is a fabric of colorful designs, of the most traditional geometric forms, that the gunas elaborate of artisan form. Almost all the guna women still wear with the mole, which is placed on top of their long and colorful dresses. The wine, a kind of colorful beads in the form of bracelets and jambs and a good amount of striking bracelets, rings or necklaces, complete the ornamentation of women guna
Men, however, only wear traditional garments on very few occasions. T-shirt and jeans look like they have become their traditional outfit. Many of them are engaged in fishing, one of the activities that underpin the economy of the guna. The collection of coconuts and, in recent years, tourism, are two other activities that help in the sustenance and self-sufficiency of guna Yak. I will extend, in a close story, with this interesting town and that we had the opportunity to know thanks to a visit that we made to one of their communities.
VISIT TO GUNA YALA. TWO DAYS IN PARADISE.
Although it is possible to hire a one-day excursion to guna yala (which in Panama is known as a posada) we preferred to enjoy the archipelago of San Blas for a couple of days. Thus, beyond being able to know a good amount of these paradisiac islands, we can do the same with the Indians guna, whose culture seems to us especially interesting.
At 5:30 in the morning, when it has not yet dawned, they pick us up at our Panama City hotel. The journey to the port of Carty lasts just over two and a half hours. The last hour is made with a road opened a few years ago, partly asphalted but not in its entirety and which is a real climb and low in the middle of the jungle. It is worthwhile that those who are especially given to get dizzy take their precautions, using biodramine.
The port of Carty, on the shores of the Caribbean, is an organized chaos where it is distributed to the travelers who have arrived here in the various boats that will distribute them by the different islands of this sector of the guna yala region. The usual thing is to have purchased a complete package that includes the 4 × 4 transfer to Puerto Carty, the boat to the island where the traveler will stay, the full board that will be offered by the host and some excursions to neighboring or nearby islands where you can enjoy the temperate and transparent waters that characterize the archipelago.