Mola textile of the Kuna Indians of Panama and Colombia. These textile pieces, which tend to depict tropical and everyday scenes of Kuna life in geometric patterns, are often incorporated as front and back panels of a traditional Kuna blouse. The Kuna Indians, centred in Comarca de Kuna Yala in the San Blas Islands of northwestern Panama, were once a powerful tribe that controlled the coasts and waterways of the Caribbean coast of Panama and Colombia. They resisted Spanish colonial rule for many years and in 1925 rebelled successfully against the Panama government during the Tule Revolution that led to the formation of their autonomous region in Panama today.
I bought a number of mola pieces in 2002 when I visited a Kuna village just outside the Colombian city of Cartagena on the Caribbean. I marveled at these friendly people who are proud of their indigenous heritage and their perseverance of preserving their culture in the face of ruthless modernity. Nearby were the massive walls and monumental towers of the historic UNESCO-listed city of Cartegena, famously raided by Sir Francis Drake in 1586 and other French and English pirates throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. Beyond that were the fabulous Caribbean beaches and high-rise resorts which were oases of peace in those days during the height of the Colombian civil war when I visited. Colombia has since recovered after a period of good governance of President Uribe and his near-defeat of the leftist FARC rebels. I look forward to visiting Colombia again and visit other parts of the country I avoided in 2002.