‘Refrain form kissing, nudity and auto, hetero or homosexual acts on inhabited or uninhabited islands.” Who knew paradise had so many rules. Or that anywhere could be quite so beautiful.
Guna Yala is a unique place. On the map it looks like these 365 ish islands are part of Panama, but since 1925 it has been an autonomous region. The Kuna, as the indigenous people are called, make their own rules, run their own government, control their tourism and own everything. There are no chain hotels, there are very few restaurants; you provision from the veggie boat.
It is a unique culture. Panamanians were eager to tell us that the Kuna often dress and raise their sons as girls particularly if the family does not have daughters. They even find them husbands. Girls, whether biological or not, inherit all in this matriarchal society. Any Kuna who marries a non-Kuna is banished. Husbands move into the wife’s family compound upon marriage. Continue reading →
Last November my sister asked if I wanted to ski for Christmas. No. But did they want to come through the Panama Canal? She didn’t even ask her family before saying yes. Somehow we both knew this 48-mile passage was going to be special.
So did Charles V. While King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor back in 1534 he ordered a survey of the newly discovered, at least by Europeans, isthmus. He figured control of a canal would give him a huge advantage over Portugal. It was a great idea shared by lots of others over the next 300 years including Thomas Jefferson. But the technology didn’t exist. It wasn’t deemed possible until 1881 when the French, high off the financial and engineering success of the Suez Canal, starting digging. Continue reading →
Fantastically hip and totally tiny, Casco Viejo is the reason to visit Panama City. Now a neighborhood, back in 1673 it was the city.
Founded after the original town was laid to waste by the Welsh pirate Henry Morgan, the survivors of his raid chose this little peninsula because it could be easily fortified (then as now governments react to past crisis) and there was fresh water. Coincidentally it was also beside a river that would eventually become the Panama Canal. Continue reading →