Guna Yala / San Blas Islands

Guna Yala is an indigenous territory in Panama, inhabited by the Guna ethnicity. Formerly the area was called San Blas until 1998 and as Guna Yala until 2010. Its capital is El Porvenir. Bordered on the north by the Caribbean Sea, on the south by the province of Darien and the Panama province, Colombia on the east and on the west by the Colon province.

Guna Yala means “Land Guna” or “Mountain Guna” in Guna. The area was formerly known as San Blas, along with the native name of Kuna Yala, but was changed in October 2011 when the Government of Panama recognized the claim of the people Guna in his mother tongue was not equivalent to the letter “K” and that the official name should be “Guna Yala”.

L’artisanat Guna consiste essentiellement en la couture des fameux Molas que l’on trouve dans beaucoup de musées: un appliqué decoupé de plusieurs couches de tissus de couleurs différentes. Un travail d’une finesse extrême qui demande, pour les plus belles pièces jusqu’à 6 mois de travail. Il y a aussi le Unnis, bracelets traditionnels que les femmes portent aux poignets et aux mollets.

Guna natives are famous for their molas: the mola is a traditional form of textile art, they are sewn into panels with complex and multiple layers using a reverse appliqué technique designs and are available in the islands. In the language guna (dulegaya), mola means “clothing” or “blouse”.

The mola originated with the tradition of the guna woman painting their bodies with geometrical designs, using available natural colors. After colonization and subsequent contact with the missionaries, the gunas began to transfer their traditional geometric designs on fabric, first by painting directly, then using the technique applied in reverse. It is not known with certainty when this technique was used for the first time.

They assume that the oldest molas are between 150-170 years old. In addition to their geometric inspiration, the Kuna in the last 50 years began to create realistic and abstract designs of flowers, animals, birds and sea.

The full dress traditionally includes a skirt (in dulegaya: saburet), a scarf for the red and yellow head (dulegaya: musue), bangles for arms and legs (in dulegaya: wini), a gold ring in the nose (in dulegaya: olasu), and earrings (in dulegaya: dulemor).


  Established in 1938 as an autonomous indigenous territory, the territory of Guna Yala, with its simple beauty, its unique and exceptional islands culture and ancient forests, offers an incredible destination away from the vast majority of tourists. Charter a sailboat is a different way to discover the archipelago.