Native Guna

Nobody knows for sure when they arrived in Panama from South America, but by the 16th century, they had already occupied the 360 islands known today as the San Blas archipelago, pushed towards the Caribbean coast by enemy Native American tribes and the Spanish conquistadors. Today, the Kuna are mainly found on the islands of San Blas, but also in the jungle of Chucunaque and Bayano.

The Kuna people have struggled for centuries to keep its culture and traditions alive. During the colonial period, they joined European corsairs and pirates in a number of successful attacks against the Spanish, who had vowed to eliminate them. As the Spanish empire dwindled, they became entrenched in the regions of present-day Darién and San Blas, in Panama, and western Colombia, which granted them lands and legal recognition towards the end of the 19th century. Panama, which back then was a Colombian province, declared independence in 1903 and ignored the agreements. Although most of the Kuna population was on the Panamanian side of the border, a fact that made many inhabitants of San Blas side with the Colombian government just as Panamanian authorities sought to “civilize” the Kuna.

Resentments reached a climax in 1925, when Richard O. Marsh, a Canadian adventurer, motivated the gunas to declare independence from Panama through the creation of the “Republic of Tule”. A peace treaty was signed after, and agreed to recognize to the Gunas Panamanian sovereignty only after the “wagas” (non-guna) grant them a good deal of autonomy. Today, the Panamanian authorities rarely interfere with Guna government and created three special “regions” for them.

The Kuna women wear skirts and blouses hand sewn known as “molas”. Men wear a traditional shirt and less traditional Guna pants like jeans or shorts. The Guna women paintalso her face with a homemade Rouge annatto seeds. They also usually wear a nose ring and a line painted on its nose.

The Guna have the most advanced political system than any other indigenous group in Latin America.

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