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The Guna Yala Region

Guna Yala is an indigenous region in Panama, inhabited by the Guna ethnic group. Formerly the region was called San Blas until 1998 and as Kuna Yala until 2010. Its capital is El Porvenir. It borders to the north with the Caribbean Sea, to the south with the province of Darién and the Emberá Wounnan region, to the east with Colombia and to the west with the province of Colón. Some villages are located on the mainland, others are behind the locks.

Guna Yala in the Guna language means «Tierra Guna» or «Guna Mountain». The area was formally known as San Blas, along with the native name of Kuna Yala, but it was changed in October 2011 when the Government of Panama recognized the claim of the Guna people that in their mother tongue there was no phoneme for the letter «K », And that the official name should be« Guna Yala ».

The Guna Yala Region has an area of 2,306 km². It consists of a narrow strip of land 373 km long on the east coast of the Panamanian Caribbean, bordering the province of Darien and Colombia. An archipelago of 365 islands surround the coast, of which 36 are inhabited.

The Economy of the Guna Yala Region is mainly dedicated to agriculture, fishing, handicraft production, and tourism.

The most representative of the Guna culture is: La Mola, which in the Guna (Dulegaya) language means “clothing” or “blouse”, is a female garment that has been known internationally, for the colorful designs that the Guna woman embodies the cloth Molas are textile sewn into panels with complex and multi-layer designs using a reverse appliqué technique. The full dress consists of a handkerchief that is used to cover the head in dulegaya (“tunue”), a scarf for the red and yellow head (in dulegaya: musue), a nasal gold ring in dulegaya (“ondau”), a gold chest that goes down sometimes to the navel in dulegaya (“orbiret”); a skirt in dulegaya (“saburet”); sleeves made of chaquira that are placed on the arms and legs in dulegaya (“wini”), rings in both hands in dulegaya (“oargan”) and earrings in addition to the blouse (in dulegaya: dulegaya). This complete dress is usually used in traditional festivals; but this custom has been gradually lost, since now it is only seen in the villages where tradition is still deeply rooted. Another representative aspect is its islands with coconut palm trees. Many of these islands are completely surrounded by fine sand that gives them a very natural and relaxing appearance. People who have visited such islands have seen them as a Tropical Paradise, since in addition to offering a beautiful panorama, it offers a healthy environment far from the city’s bill.

The making of molas is the main activity of the Guna woman and constitutes for many families the only source of income or at least the main source.

In the Region of Guna Yala there are tourist facilities. Most are small hotels for ecotourism. Most of them are in the Cartí sector, but several are also found in the Ailigandi Corregimiento.

Guna Yala is divided into four districts, which are: Ailigandi, Narganá, Puerto Obaldía and Tubuala.

Each village is composed of several villages: El Porvenir, Cartí, Guebi (or Azucar River), Narganá, Ukubseni (or Playón Chico), Tupile, ailigandí, Achutupu, Ustupu, Mansukun, Navagandí, Tupak (or Pine Island), Sasardí Mulatupu , Tuala, Cuba, Coetupu, Carreto, Sucun (or Anachucuna), Armila and Puerto Obaldía.

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