Published on December 25th, 20100
Random Photo Memory: San Blas Islands Kuna Lass
Christmas: 1999, Panama – on the eve of the 10th anniversary of “Operation Just Cause” (that infamous Noriega lad btw, has recently been extradited to France after spending 17 years in a U.S. prison). Ah, but I digress.
Hopping on a 2 seater (me and the pilot) single-engine plane bound for the San Blas Islands (a pristine necklace of 378 tiny islands off the north coast of Panama), my trusty pilot suddenly lit up a cigarette and nearly gave me a heart attack: my chin was but 8 inches from the gas tank!
By some miracle we managed to make it to the islands without being blown to kingdom-come over the Caribbean, and I spent an idyllic week among the indigenous Kuna. These gentle people, though technically Panamanian by nationality, have utter autonomy over their lovely archipelago, and tourism (then) was blessedly in its infancy. Sleeping in a sand-floored, thatched hut, by day I witnessed the rituals of their simple day-to-day lives, boated to several of the bitsy islets (only a handful are inhabited), and happily toted home a treasured collection of their unique “Mola” reverse appliqué needlework.