Guna (Panama)

The Guna, known as Kuna prior to an orthographic reform in 2010, and historically as Cuna, are an indigenous people of Panama and Colombia. The Congreso General de la Nación Gunadule since 2010 promotes the spelling Guna. In the Kuna language, they call themselves Dule or Tule, meaning “people”, and the name of the language in Kuna is Dulegaya, literally “people-mouth”.

The Guna live in three politically autonomous comarcas or reservations in Panama, and in a few small villages in Colombia. There are also communities of Kuna people in Panama City, Colón, and other cities. The most Gunas live on small islands off the coast of the comarca of Kuna Yala known as the San Blas Islands. The other two Guna comarcas in Panama are Kuna de Madugandí and Kuna de Wargandí. They are Guna speaking people who once occupied the central region of what is now Panama and the neighboring San Blas Islands and still survive in marginal areas.

The Guna are famous for their bright molas, a colorful textile art form made with the techniques of appliqué and reverse appliqué. Mola panels are used to make the blouses of the Kuna women’s national dress, which is worn daily by many Guna women. Mola means “clothing” in the Kuna language. The Guna word for a mola blouse is Tulemola, (or “dulemola”) “Kuna people’s clothing.”

(Pictures taken in 2010)

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