Kuna Indians and Mola Art

I’m still on vacation with my parents until Friday. You would think on my fourth visit, there wouldn’t be much new to see in Panama. But, there is!  I spent the first couple of days locally at Playa Serena in Gorgona. I love, love, love the water. I want to say it’s in my Carribbean blood. But, neither of my parents swim 🙂

I also showed Jess  the local artisan markets (hence the hat above). Over the weekend, we drove out to the Colon Province on the Carribean side of Panama.  We were ready for some white sand beaches! This is the area that my great-grandfather lived when he worked on the Panama Canal. It’s still mostly of African descent (a good descendent mix of slaves and West Indian Canal workers) and has a couple of old Spanish forts built in in the 1700s.

While in the town of Portebelo (originally Puerta Bella — ‘Beautiful Port’ ) I picked up a molas.  These appilqued fabrics remind me of quilting. They are made by the women of the indigenous tribes, the Kuna. Don’t worry about my exploiting the woman  below for the photo. She charged me $2.

I want to frame the piece below. The colors aren’t quite right for my house, but I thought the workmanship was excellent.

This one tells the story of a young woman in the tribe reaching puberty. At that time, her head is shaved and she starts to wear the traditional clothing. From that day on, she cannot grow her hair past her ears / mid neck.

On the right, you can see them making cane juice (pronounced Kanye in Spanish. I giggle everytime) for the party celebrating her entering adult hood.

Jess, who speaks fluent Spanish, did all my bargaining (love that girl).

The posted price was $100, I paid $60, my mom says she would have paid $40. I think that means we did ok.

From Portebello, we went on to La Isla Grande.

You have to take a speedboat to the Island. Please note that this hustler charged us $10 and his boat is named ‘Terror’. Did not instill confidence. We stayed at an awesome resort which has just 28 of these adorable cabanas. I swear, you paint something pastel and I fall in love.

The water was crystal clear and the snorkling was amazing and fun. Can I also say that Rafters are the GREATEST shoes for travel.

We’re back in Panama City on Monday and Tuesday where I will be stocking on the $2 a yard knit linings I found last year!


  1. It doesn’t get any more fun that that!!!!!!!!! Shopping for molas and gorgeous settings and island breezes and boats named “Terror”….enjoy all you can!!!!

  2. ‘Bout time we had some travel to go with the sewing – wonderful pictures. You always throw yourself into the experiences around you when you travel, nervous nellie here, so thanks for sharing!

    Hope the rest of the trip is just as much fun, if not more.


  3. Looks like an amazing place for a holiday. I would fall for the pastel painted cabanas too. Continue with the fun times!

  4. I need relatives that live in a nice place to visit!

    This brought up memories, once in primary school the art teacher had a woman from Panama come teach us to do Molas…that was a several week project. Mine won a prize and got displayed.

  5. That shot of your feet with the cute toe nails just sums it all up! I will take a similar one in Thailand next month!

  6. Those cabanas are delightful! That beach is gorgeous! If nothing else, you can put that tapestry in your sewing room, right? Glad you’re having a blast.

  7. Stunning! Thanks for the update in the midst of your vacation. How wonderful it must be to visit family and see roots even generations back. Lucky girl! Jess is a super companion, she looks very nice and friendly, plus fluent in Spanish so there’s someone to grab on to. Enjoy your stay!

  8. Ahhh yeah! My mother is Panamanian so she has a few amazingly intricate molas framed and displayed around her home. They really are art! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the country! The crystal clear water is always the 1st thing I brag about to people!

  9. Wow…the water and beaches are beautiful. I feel a trip to Panama- solely for working on my Spanish, of course- may be in order this winter for me!

Comments are closed.