Thursday, 22-Feb-2018, 4:04 PM

Sailing San Blas on Pacifica

Sail San Blas

What would you like to do?
  • Participate in sailing or just sit back and enjoy.
  • Sail to a new paradise each day or hang out for days in your favorite spot.
  • Swim and snorkel in crystal clear waters - gear is provided.
  • Peaceful anchorages with breath-taking sunsets. You might catch a "green flash".
  • Dine on the freshest sea food possible, caught directly from the sea - fishing gear is there.
  • Explore the culture of Kuna indians, barely touched by civilization.
Why should you go with me?
  • You deal with me directly, and I will arrange your whole trip, eliminating agents. This makes my rates so low.
  • Being on a catamaran is a luxury comparing to a monohull yacht: it is not heeling under way, rolling less at anchor, spacious and comfortable. And in the front there is a trampoline - excellent for sun bathing!
  • I will talk to you and together we will come up with the best route, considering your personal preferences. Thanks to shallow draft of my boat, we can anchor in places, impossible for most of monohulls. You will see the best of San Blas, - islands off the beaten path!

The Comarca de Kuna Yala ( Comarca de San Blas ) is a narrow, 226km-long strip on the Caribbean coast that includes the Archipielago de San Blas, which stretches from the Golfo de San Blas to the edge of the Colombian border. The islands are home to the Kuna, who run San Blas as a comarca (autonomous region) with minimal interference from the national government. Following a violent uprising on February 25, 1925, the Kuna were granted permission to implement their own system of governance and economy while still maintaining their language, representation in the Panamanian legislature and full voting rights. Given that the Kuna have been in contact with Europeans ever since Columbus sailed along here in 1502, this has been no small achievement. Their success is the result of their remarkable tenacity and zealous efforts to preserve a traditional way of life. Today, they have one of the greatest degrees of political autonomy of any indigenous group in Latin America. Historians at the end of the 18th century wrote that the only people who used the San Blas islands at the time were pirates, spaniards and the odd explorer. However, the Kuna flourished on the archipelago due to the abundance of fresh fish, lobster, shrimp, crab and octopus dupa.

The Comarca de San Blas or Kuna Yala, appears little changed from the times before the Spanish Conquista, a result of the tenacity of the Kuna people. According to their oral tradition, the Kunas’ forefathers lived in the Darien mountains. Antropologists estimate they numbered between 500,000 and 750,000 at the time of the Spanish arrival. Under pressure from other tribes, or possibly the Spanish invaders, the majority of Kunas moved to the coast and later to the offshore islands. Some communities still survive in the forest at the Atlantic and Pacific slopes of the Continental divide with a couple of villages over the border in Colombia.

After suffering from violent inroads by outsiders the Kuna rebelled in 1925. They killed many of the Panamian policemen and children of mixed blood living in the islands. In 1938 the government of Panama granted the Kuna leaders almost autonomous rule in the officially recognized Comarca de San Blas. The Kuna were granted permission to implement their own system of governance and economy while still maintaining their language, representation in the Panama legislature and full voting rights.

There are nearly 400 islands in the chain, all small creations of sand and palms with the turquise Carribean lapping at their shores. While the majority of the islands are magazine-cover beauties, the Kuna choose to inhabit no more than a handful of acre-sized cays, which are packed with bamboo huts and people. Although outsiders often wonder why the Kuna choose to live in such crowded conditions, this is a testament to the incredible sense of community and identity that has allowed the Kuna to achieve their remarkable degree of independence. As a result, they inhabit only 48 of the nearly 400 cays. The rest are mostly left to coconut trees, sea turtles and iguanas.

The mainstay of the Kuna economy is coconuts which grow a mass on the outlying island. Until the late 1990s, the district’s principal currency was the coconut and in this moment every coconut palm has owner.

The traditional Kuna belief structure is based around three principal concepts: god, nature and the cosmos. According to Kuna religion, the world was created by God, Paba Tummat, and the Great Mother, Nan Tummat, who continue to keep watch over everyone’s daily actions. Although Kuna shamans often look into the future and make minor divinations, everything in life is believed to be preordained by God and the Great Mother. In fact, the Kuna make great efforts in their daily lives to ensure that their actions follow the will Paba and Nan Tummat, even though they do not know their fate.

The Kuna identify strongly with nature and their rich oral traditions are full of songs, hymns and prayers that recount the beauty and majesty of the wind, the land, and the sea. To the Kuna, man and nature are considered parts of the same entity and thus the rules of nature follow human life from birth to death. The Kuna also love and admire nature, and believe that true happiness is only experienced within its presence.

In San Blas men gather nightly for heated discussion about local events, to make decision about important problems and to listen to the advice of chiefs. Generally, each island has at least three chiefs (“Sailas”) and they authority is officially recognized by the Panamian government. Every year, there are two general assemblies for the representatives from all of the islands in the Kuna Yala where major issues affecting the Kuna are discussed. Sailas are much more than political leaders. They are also holders of the Kuna spiritualism, poesy, medicinal knowledge and history.

Historically, the Kuna were matrilocal, meaning that when a man marries, he moves into the household of his wife’s parents and comes under the control of his father-in-law. Today, this pattern is yielding to neolocality, meaning that newlyweds will establish residence away from both parents. As recent as a generation ago, Kuna households had an average size of 7 to 12 people, but today households are often comprised of as few as five people.

Most Kuna women continue to dress as their ancestors did. Their faces are adorned with the black line painted from the forehead to the trip of the nose, with a gold ring worn through the septum. Colorful fabric is wrapped around the waist as a skirt, topped by a short-sleeved blouse covered in brilliantly colored molas. The woman wrap their legs, from ankle to knee, in long strands of tiny beads, forming colorful geometric patterns.. Each mola is unique, and they usually show abstracted forms of birds, animals, or or marine life. The Kuna men have adopted Western dress, such as shorts and sleeveless shirts. The women selling “molas” and “molas” are Panama’s most famous handicraft and are appreciated in many countries.

The Kuna are accepting visitors, but prohibit any non-Kuna from permanently settling of intermarrying. Foreigners cannot buy land of invest in Kuna Yala, although they welcome donations to the general congress. The Kunas are physically small, rivaled in tribal shortness only by the pygmies. The Kunas are well proportioned, healthy and have boundless energy. They are peaceful, non-aggressive and crime of any form is extremely rare in Kuna Yala.

The San Blas archipelago is now clearly threatened by general sea level rising due to the global warming as a result of the civil and industrial pollution: Scientists predict that in around 40 to 60 years, the archipelago will be submerged! The Kuna Indians would have then to move and live -again- on the mountains.

San Blas is a MUST-SEE in Panama!
Furthermore, it needs to be seen from the water! Only then can you appreciate the picturesque island scenery, crystal clear blue waters, and amazing reefs.
TripAdvisor Reviews
 Edwin C, 07/2016
 Duebi S, 04/2015
 cook600, 03/2014
 jolajarek, 03/2014
 Barry-Marloes, 02/2013
 jerrisgoneagain, 12/2012
 panamaone, 07/2012
 ben a, 06/2012
 Rainer J, 05/2012
 esa_vagabunda, 03/2012
Everything about San Blas
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