The San Blas Archipelago - Photo Pêcheur d'Images

The San Blas Archipelago

Nestled in a fold of the Caribbean Sea, the 350 San Blas islands adorn the Caribbean coast of Panama on nearly 300 km. Protected by a long barrier reef, the islands offer idyllic cruises to appreciate a calm sea and lonely anchorages. This is where the ship of the Compagnie des Iles du Ponant came to drop anchor. The ethnic Indian Kuna, living in the archipelago, are friendly and attentive hosts, who feast their visitors with freshly caught fish and shellfish and take them by boat to visit small paradise islands bordered of crystal waters.

Kuna live between ocean and lagoon. Aboard their long canoes cut in tree trunks, sometimes with rudimentary sails, Kunas slide between the islands and travel to lands where they carry out agricultural tasks. Kuna women wear on their arms and legs, coloured pearl bracelets called chaquiras, supposed to protect them from bad spirits. Some also adorn their noses with a gold ring and draw on their forehead a thin vertical line with black paint based jagua, the fruit of a palm tree. They make and sell to tourists shimmering fabrics called molas, usually decorated with animal motifs or geometric shapes. But this time, warned in advance, the artisans had embroidered molas with the Vessel effigy.

Under the large house that serves as the town hall, where citizens meet regularly, the head of the community (Sahila) and his advisers sit in their hammocks, protected from the sun. Despite the influences of modernity, the indigenous people, independent, politically independent since 1925, manage to preserve their ancestral culture of the Sea People. Fishing for shellfish, coconut culture, tourism and traditional crafts sustain molas.

Texte : Anne Jankeliowitch