Monday, July 7, 2014

Colombia/Panama Day 10: San Blas Islands- Caladonia

My night in Sapzurro was spent reorganizing my stuff.  We only have access to a small bag during the trip (and a bag with water and snacks); our big bags are wrapped up to keep them dry and so are unavailable most of the time.  
It rained during the night but I didn't hear anything, I had my earplugs in because I was in a dorm room and wanted to make sure I could sleep so I could wake up early as I usually do.  

There are 30 of us, which is on the larger side as far as the size of groups go.  We split up into two different boats and set off for Puerto Obaldia, Panama.  This is where we will get our entry stamps for Panama.  Once again, it is great to do this with San Blas Adventures because it can get very confusing, which is fine if you have time to spare but impossible if you have a deadline to be in Panama.  
They didn't want me to put my banjo with the big luggage so I spent every boat ride with it in between my legs.  It was a bit of a hassle but it wasn't so bad, especially since I played for multiple hours throughout the trip.  It was worth it. 

We arrived at Obaldia about 30 minutes later.  Before we can get our passports stamped we needed to have all of our bags searched for drugs.  The tour guide kept saying, 'whatever you do DO NOT bring your drugs to Panama.  You will get caught and go to jail for 10 years), but apparently there were some people who thought they would chance it.  They freaked out at the last minute and threw out what they had into the water right before the boat stopped.  

After the drug check we walked to immigration and waited while one person went through our passports one by one.  It took over an hour, and there wasn't much to do in this town.  We couldn't even find ice cream.  

About two hours later we were at Caladonia, a Kuna village, where we had lunch and were shown to our hammocks.  I suppose there are worse places to sleep than a hammock, but it is not conducive to the best nights sleep.  

I know it is gross to take pictures of a bathroom but I couldn't help it.  This is our toilet.  It goes straight into the ocean, which is exactly why we left the Kuna village to have beach time. Everyone's toilets in the village have the same system.

 It was a ten minute boat ride to our first deserted island.  I snorkeled, drank coconut water and laid in the sun.  

We have been instructed not to take pictures of Kuna people without asking.  I abided by the rule 99.9% of the time.  I think I did good!  Maybe they should wear plain clothing if they don't want to be noticed. 
This Kuna family came to the deserted island we were on to sell beer and coca cola and coconuts.  Even if you find a coconut and open it yourself you still have to pay to eat it.  The Kuna own the islands, and their ancestors have planted the coconuts.  The San Blas islands are the number one producers of coconuts in the world.  

After we returned to Cadalonia we were given permission to explore.  As long as we didn't disrupt the congreso which was meeting in the main building.  14 different chiefs from different islands come together at least once a year to discuss laws and issues.  They all lay in hammocks and smoke pipes until everything is resolved.  Every island can have its own laws.  

I have yet to discuss the Kuna and how they arrived on the islands.  
The Kuna were living in the Darién Gap long before the Spaniards arrived.  There were bloody battles with the Spaniards, and much resistance to changing their culture.  The Spaniards for the most part just let them be.  Although they were no strangers to the islands in the 1800s most Kuna permanently moved to the islands to avoid deadly jungle diseases and to increase their access to trade.  In 1903 Panama became independent from Spain and so Panama tried to govern the Kuna.  The Kuna revolted in 1925; some Kuna leaders went to a nearby town on the mainland and attacked and killed policemen and residents.  Panama wanted the US to intervene but instead the US sided with the Kuna.  From that moment they were not required to follow Panamanian law.  

The Panamanian government has supplied them, and other indigenous groups, with solar power.
They also give them full scholarships for college.  As one Kuna put it, they are very privileged.  

I had conch for dinner!  My pescetarian choices were between conch and octopus, and since I had never had conch I had to try it.  It was really good, much better than octopus which is too chewy most of the time. 

Laura and I tried to go to the local store (which is nothing more than closet with a few items) in search for chocolate but it was closed until 9pm.  It was fun to see the village at night, but 9 is past my bed time!
My hammock awaits...

1 comment:

  1. Found this to be so interesting...
    The Kuna are an Indian tribe in Panama. The Kuna number approximately about 35,000 the majority living in the San Blas Islands, and on the mailand in the Madungandi reservation, while a small percentage like in the capital city, Panama.

    The Kuna speak their own language called "Tule". While on the San Blas islands, many Kuna speak Spanish and even some English, in the Madungandi reservation there is little Spanish proficiency. They live traditionally in thatched roof huts made from materials readily found in the jungle.

    The Kuna women wear wrap around skirts and beautifully hand-made blouses known as "molas". The Mola is a intricately sewn picture made from layers of cloth in a reverse appliqué technique. The men wear a traditional Kuna shirt and then less traditional pants, jeans, or shorts. Kuna women also paint their faces with a homemade rouge made from achiote seeds. They also usually wear a nose ring and paint a line down their nose.

    The Kuna have plots of land in the jungle where they grow plantain, bananas, and avocados, among other fruits. They also grow corn and some tuber plants like manioc and ñame.
    They eat a variety of wild game hunted from the jungle, but their staples are fish (Tilapia) and plantain. They also drink a variety of chichas (any drink made by boiling or mixing water and something else), but principally drink a boiled corn chicha.

    The Kuna are animists: They believe in a creator God who now is far away from them and that the poni, groups of malevolent spirits roam the earth entering peoples bodies causing sickness and disease. The use the nuchus, small dolls carved out of balsa wood, to protect them from the poni. The saila, or Kuna chief, speaks for God much like a prophet, telling the people what they need to do so God will be pleased with them. They believe they must work to please God so that he doesn't send an earthquake or other terrible things against them. The vast majority of the Indians in Madungandi have never heard a clear presentation of the Gospel message.

    The Kuna have the most advanced political system of any tribal group in Latin America, and possible the world. They have three chiefs who manage village politics and a series of meetings called congresos; they conduct elections throughout the reservation and nationally as well.


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