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  • Writer's pictureCari Mackey

Indigenous bling - the beautiful wearable art of the Guna Yala.

Updated: Apr 24, 2023

There are so many reasons to love about being a woman but honestly, one of my most favorite is the way in which we women all over the world unabashedly shower ourselves with color, sparkles, flowers, gems, beads, and bold patterns.

Thankfully, bright colors and fancy adornments are not just for the ladies. Think of the Native Americans, Peruvians, Nigerians, and Indians. Talk about color, feathers, and beads! For you world travelers, I'm sure you have seen some spicy cultural fashions along the way especially in nature.

Thinking of colorful toucans and peacocks, the women of Guna Yala have set the bar high when it comes to colorful traditional dress. The Guna Yala are an indigenous tribe of people that inhabit the San Blas Islands off the Northwest Atlantic coast of Panama. Think turquoise waters, white sand islands, palm trees, and dugout canoes. Essentially your quintessential paradise photos that many of you in the North are dreaming of right now.

Back in 1925 the Guna Yala led a successful revolution against the Panamanian Government enabling them the ability to autonomously govern themselves and lead their traditional ways of life. As with other indigenous communities of Panama, they are easily identified through their traditional clothing.

The colorful and traditional dress of the women starts with the muswe, the head scarf which is most commonly red and yellow. Their arms and legs are adorned with intricate beadwork called uini or chakira. The skirt or saburet is a brightly patterned fabric but, the most distinguishing part of their dress is the mola.

The mola originated as body painting but then evolved into these beautifully embroidered pieces of wearble art. It is said that this is a way for their culture to preserve what is important to them. Kind of like living petroglyphs and pictographs.

These beautiful works of art have become a source of revenue to the people and are available in many areas throughout the country to purchase. They are truly beautiful little treasures, and a great way to keep Panama close to your heart.

Living in a country where indigenous cultures are still living the way they have for centuries is an endless source of fascination and appreciation and we look forward to everyone being able to experience it all again soon.

Sending you love from Panama where its warm, sunny, and beautiful right now (hint, hint, the flights are pretty cheap too!).

Your Friends in Morrillo,

Cari and Ryan Mackey

Owners and Hosts

Morrillo Beach Eco Resort

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