Paradise!? That’s a strong word that certainly is up for interpretation and a host of varying criteria but here we are in the island nation of the Kuna Yala where scattered throughout this reef-strewn crystal clear water in many shades of blue are coconut palm studded sandy islands inhabited by in village form or just a couple families or uninhabited. For many these islands are the visual form of paradise and to look at the amenities that are so basic to us but so lacking here most Americans would say no thank you to life on these islands in paradise.
But to visit them by sailboat and look in on a way of life that has changed little for hundreds of years is an adventure in itself. The scenery is gorgeous, the water is 85 degrees, the sun is strong as well as the wind. The Kunas are the second shortest people on earth next to the Pygmies. The Kuna women dress colorfully and adorn their legs, arms and faces. This is a matriarchal society and the husband moves into the woman’s family hut with multiple generations all living under one grass roof, dirt floor and no windows because the breeze has no problem finding its way through the grass walls. Cozy, real cozy.
Men and sometimes women and sometimes the whole family show up in dugouts selling lobsters, and the handicrafts like their famous molas. But there is no ice, no cold beer, not fruits and vegetables, if you’re coming to visit you’d better bring your own everything. And I always travel with candy for the ninos because I cannot step onto any island without the cry of Santa Claus or Papa Noel and all the children waiting with expectations of something. Sugar, something sweet and treat-like is the universal token offering – hundreds of lollipops, gummibears and the like. Chocolate melts in your hand here.
What an experience, what a treat for me to swim in this beautiful water and see this culture but even paradise has its issues. But for the moment just close your eyes and think of a tropical paradise and that’s where we are right now.