About San Blas
Guna Yala is an indigenous region in Panama, inhabited by the Guna ethnic group. Formerly the region was called San Blas until 1998 and as Guna Yala since 2010. Its capital is El Porvenir. It limits to the north with the Caribbean Sea, to the south with the province of Darién and the province of Panama, to the east with Colombia and to the west with the province of Colón.
Guna Yala in the Guna language means “Guna Land” or “Guna Mountain”. The area was formally known as San Blas, along with the indigenous name of Kuna Yala, but it was changed in October 2011 when the Government of Panama recognized the claim of the Guna people that in their mother tongue it was not equivalent to the letter “K” and that the official name should be “Guna Yala”.
The Guna indigenous people are famous for their molas: the mola is a traditional textile art, they are textiles sewn in panels with complex designs and multiple layers using a reverse appliqué technique. Molas can be found on the islands. In the Guna (Dulegaya) language, mola means “clothes” or “blouse.” The full dress traditionally includes a skirt (in dulegaya: saburet), a red and yellow head scarf (in dulegaya: musue), arm and leg bracelets (in dulegaya: wini), a gold nose ring ( in dulegaya: wavesu), and earrings (in dulegaya: dulemor). Molas originated with the Guna woman’s tradition of painting her bodies with geometric designs, using available natural colors. After colonization and subsequent contact with missionaries, the Gunas began to transfer their traditional geometric designs onto canvas, first by painting them directly, then using the reverse applied technique. It is not known with certainty when this technique was used for the first time. The oldest molas are assumed to be 150 to 170 years old. In addition to their geometric inspiration, the gunas in the last 50 years began to create realistic and abstract designs of flowers, animals, birds and the sea.
Established in 1938 as an autonomous indigenous territory, the Guna Yala comarca, with its simple beauty, unique culture, and exceptional islands and primary forests, offers an incredible destination away from the vast majority of tourists. Renting a sailboat is a different way to discover the archipelago.