Panama 2018: Guna Woman

Here’s Bob’s other shot of a Guna woman selling molas in the market in El Valle. This woman actually doesn’t have a nose ring, as most of them do. But you can clearly see the mola she is wearing — she has another one on the back of her blouse — and you get a good sense of the bead work around her wrists and ankles. The beadwork goes on at puberty, and never comes off.

In this matriarchal society, it’s the women who are so colorfully dressed. The men simply wear white shirts and black pants. Their attire isn’t eye catching at all. Both men and women are quite short in stature.

The Guna have gotten sophisticated in responding to people who ask to take their picture. If you buy something, most will allow a shot. If you just want a picture, they ask for a few dollars. These are poor people, and I never begrudge making the payment, or urging my friends to respond as asked.

Telling this woman’s age is hard. Given her level of skill in mola sewing — skill is judged by the tiny stitches and by the complexity of the design — she’s been doing this for awhile. That means she’s not young. But how old she might be is a mystery.

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