Paradise at The End of The Sea; Kuna Yala

Categories: On The Water

by Mira Nencheva

It’s a beautiful sunny day in Kuna Yala. A few white clouds slowly sailing in the sky, the sea calm, transparent and sparkling in the sun. A wet blue landscape in every direction. Small islands of fine white-and-pink sand covered in tall coconut palms are scattered in the distance.

Rodencio Garcia is paddling slowly in his old dugout “ulu”, after spending all morning diving in the sea spearfishing in the reefs, and collecting coconuts on one of the few uninhabited islands in the Cayos Holandes island group. He proudly shows us his harvest and his catch: a few coconuts, avocados and mangos, few conchs, and a few small fishes of all colors.

Kuna Yala

He takes two fishes from the sea each day for his wife and two for himself. He has no children, so all he needs is four fishes per day and a couple of avocados, coconuts, and plantains. Four fishes per day, that’s all, because he has no fridge to keep any extra fish. Rodencio Garcia has no fridge, because there is no electricity on his island. No one of the three families living on his island has a fridge, or a washing machine, or a television set.

Rodencio Garia

Rodencio Garcia’s catch

Kuna Yala, officially known as the San Blas Islands, is a vast archipelago in the Caribbean Sea stretching over 2,300 square kilometers and consisting of over 360 mostly small flat islands scattered among coral reefs off the eastern coast of Panama, of which only about 40 are inhabited, home of the indigenous Kuna people. The bigger inhabited islands are densely populated by organized communities, and on some of the smaller ones only two or three families reside.

A small island where only one Kuna family lives

This autonomous Kuna Yala territory within Panama has its own independent administrative, political, and social order kept very much unchanged for centuries, where the indigenous people have

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