Journeys in Kuna Yala: Part One
The morning had begun bright and early, with me stepping out of my ocean side hut and leaving the quiet Isla Azuelo to go and hang out on Carti Sugdup. The Kuna community comes alive by 6:45 am, and it being Satrurday all the kids were outside playing volleyball, soccer, running around. I heard some music and peered through a line of huts and saw the whoosh and whirl of big skirts. As I peeped in, there was a group of about 20 kids practicing the "tipico" dance of the Los Santos region in the Azuero Peninsula. Not a community related to the Kunas, but the children were practicing the dances for a school celebration of Panamanian cultures. The boys and girls would pair up, dancing in circles, weaving in and out, with the boys whooping the characteristic "aaaauuuuwwee!" of the Azuero. Almost serving as a reminder that our world is constantly sharing tradition and culture, despite being on a remote tropical island. With the smiles on the kids' faces, I can't help but believe that sharing the culture of others is just as important as remembering your own.
I love walking around Carti, seeing what people are doing. Sitting in hammocks sewing molas, listening to the Kuna radio news, cooking over big open fires, just living a life set by their place in the world and their tradition.
My hosts, brothers Eulogio, Germain, and Joaquin, and their sisters and nephews, are such a joy to be around. They've all come in contact with travelers from all over the world, and they can remember details of each one of them, knowing they have friends all over the world. It's great for the kids too, because they become very open and cultured, counting off countries where they have friends on their fingers. The kids love to practice their English with me. This family has elements of the modern life of Panama City and beyond, but are always true to their roots and their hammocks.
As I sat at the family table that night in Carti after a dinner of fresh caught red snapper and patacones, I could hear the shaman singing and chanting a few homes down. It was eerie and so beautiful to experience this unique culture in such an intimate way. A surreal ending to such a precious day.