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Kuna Grandma, a Baby, and a Cat

This is a remastered photo from a film photo scan.

When I met my first Guna while kayaking among the San Blas Islands of Panama, they were called ...
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This is a remastered photo from a film photo scan.

When I met my first Guna while kayaking among the San Blas Islands of Panama, they were called the Kuna. After an orthographic reform in 2010, they changed their name to Guna. They are indigenous people of Panama and Colombia. They live as they've lived for hundreds of years, as you see this Kuna Grandma living. They primarily live among the 365+ San Blas Islands off the Atlantic coast of Panama. They are autonomous, governing themselves. Crime is rare among the Guna. It just isn't allowed. Period. In Guna Yala, each community has its own political organization, led by a saila. The saila is traditionally both the political and spiritual leader of the community; he memorizes songs which relate the sacred history of the people, and in turn transmits them to the people. We had the privilege of sitting in on one of the congresses as the elders told stories and recited laws through song. Often the group of elders in congress would be lying in hammocks for the services.

The economy of Kuna Yala is based on agriculture, fishing and the manufacture of clothing with a long tradition of international trade. Plantains, coconuts, and fish form the core of the Guna diet, supplemented with imported foods, a few domestic animals, and wild game. Coconuts and lobsters are the most important export products. Migrant labor and the sale of molas provide other sources of income.

I was a member of a crew kayaking among the 365+ San Blas Islands, camping on a different island each night. Because the islands belong to the Guna, we had to have the chief's permission to camp on the non-populated islands. Often the unpopulated islands are farmed for the coconuts so we had to be careful where we pitched our tents. A coconut falling on your head as you lounge outside your tent could ruin your day. We had gotten permission to visit on a couple of the islands where we could buy a cold beer. That was heaven since we never had anything cold camping.... we also bought fresh vegetables for the camp. And see that wrapping on the lady's legs? Yep, a couple of us girls just had to have them put on us. Cool. We were also invited to take a wild trip on one of their homemade sailboats. Each person had to relatively constantly dip water out of the hull with a scoop made from a plastic jug. This wasn't just for us for fun. It was necessary to keep the boat from sinking from the steady water that leaked in. I told you it was homemade, didn't I?

And, get this y'all ladies, traditionally, Guna families are matrilinear, with the groom moving to become part of the bride's family. The groom takes the last name of the bride as well. If that's what we did, my husband and I might have the same name, since I didn't take his..

Dulegaya is the primary language of daily life. I could speak my Spanglish and get by on the Panama mainland. It was useless with the Guna. Money made good language, tho. Remember that beer?

I took several pictures of the people, after permission and the promise to send them the photos. I did that by courier..our guide on the trip. It was a privilege to meet these people They lead a very simple and primitive life and work hard but they seem happy and content with their life. They depend on the elders to lead them and keep them safe. It works.

Copyright Notice: All images on this web site are protected by the U.S. and international copyright laws, all rights reserved. The images may not be copied, reproduced, manipulated or used in any way, without written permission of Kay Brewer, Artist, and Kay Brewer Photographs, a licensed business. Any unauthorized usage will be prosecuted to the full extent of U.S. Copyright Law.



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40 Comments | Report
Flosno
 
Flosno January 28, 2016
Wonderful image and a real example of how the "story line" gives meaning to the image....thanks for sharing
AnneDphotography
 
AnneDphotography January 28, 2016
it doesn't get more beautiful then this , well done !
Elyzabeth PRO
 
Elyzabeth January 29, 2016
Such a rich photo. From the beautiful expression on her face to the clothes and embellishments she is wearing.
lizziemellis PRO+
 
lizziemellis January 29, 2016
Amazing colourful image...tells a story great piece of photo journalism:-)
Kazza60
 
Kazza60 January 30, 2016
wonderful photojournalism Kay .. you excel at story telling !!
nina050 PRO+
 
nina050 January 31, 2016
Awesome!! Love the cat leash.... :-)
estercastillo08 PRO+
 
estercastillo08 January 31, 2016
Beautiful image, thanks for sharing!
GigiJim08 PRO+
 
GigiJim08 February 04, 2016
Wow, we seldom see them anymore, as "civilization" arrived, they were pushed in the margin where there is much difficulty in living. Not knowing and certainly forgotten that they are original owners of the land. Great story and awakening!
BrianBasson PRO+
 
BrianBasson February 12, 2016
This grandma has had a very hard life - something that we can't even imagine anymore.
Bazz PRO+
 
Bazz February 14, 2016
Awesome photo and so kind of you to send it to her!
kathymuhle PRO+
 
kathymuhle February 15, 2016
Beautiful portrait and the photo description is like so interesting! Voted
lizziemellis PRO+
 
lizziemellis February 16, 2016
Voted ..Children with pets:-)
NanaSue54 PRO
 
NanaSue54 February 16, 2016
I love this, and I'm sure she does too!! :)
rmr731 PRO+
 
rmr731 February 16, 2016
Great capture!
kathleenweetman
 
kathleenweetman February 17, 2016
Love this ....so unusual .....voted
GigiJim08 PRO+
 
GigiJim08 February 20, 2016
Amazing expression voted, around the world!
GigiJim08 PRO+
 
GigiJim08 February 20, 2016
In other countries, old people are very useful in the family activities. They don't really travel that much but they give love and care for the family. Close to each other and model the the new generation of the family. Oh, how i miss my parents and grand parents until the last breath they have they showed love to me. Voted children and animals!
UnkleFrank PRO+
 
UnkleFrank February 20, 2016
Good storyline, colors and comp. Voted Around the World.
UnkleFrank PRO+
 
UnkleFrank February 20, 2016
Came back to vote for Grandma...Children & Animals.
tongant PRO+
 
tongant February 28, 2016
A fantastic image, a wonderful photograph!!
estercastillo08 PRO+
 
estercastillo08 February 28, 2016
voted Around the World
estercastillo08 PRO+
 
estercastillo08 February 28, 2016
Voted Children and Animals
lizziemellis PRO+
 
lizziemellis March 01, 2016
Voted Arround the world & Children and Animals:-)
onyanita PRO+
 
onyanita March 08, 2016
i so hope she got this beautiful image!
estercastillo08 PRO+
 
estercastillo08 March 28, 2016
Voted OLd and New
UnkleFrank PRO+
 
UnkleFrank March 28, 2016
Voted Old & New....
GigiJim08 PRO+
 
GigiJim08 April 04, 2016
Voted old and new!
GigiJim08 PRO+
 
GigiJim08 April 04, 2016
voted photojournalism!
estercastillo08 PRO+
 
estercastillo08 April 04, 2016
Voted Photojournalism
UnkleFrank PRO+
 
UnkleFrank April 06, 2016
Adventureland vote
UnkleFrank PRO+
 
UnkleFrank April 06, 2016
Also voted Photo Journalism.
estercastillo08 PRO+
 
estercastillo08 April 25, 2016
Voted World Expeditions
UnkleFrank PRO+
 
UnkleFrank October 18, 2016
Voted Creative Travel.
kathleenweetman
 
kathleenweetman October 21, 2016
Voted ....so wonderful...k
GigiJim08 PRO+
 
GigiJim08 October 25, 2016
voted creative Travels!
LindaT
 
LindaT February 26, 2017
An amazing adventure! Exploring other cultures,very interesting. Thank you
UnkleFrank PRO+
 
UnkleFrank January 25, 2018
Voted Cultures of the World.
GigiJim08 PRO+
 
GigiJim08 January 28, 2018
Great, VOTED cultures of the world!
lizziemellis PRO+
 
lizziemellis January 29, 2018
Voted cultures of the world:-)
Elyzabeth PRO
 
Elyzabeth January 29, 2018
Voted Cultues of the World :) This really is an incredible shot!