The Guna have their own autonomous province of Guna Yala, where they proudly protect their cultural traditions – much of which is centred around the women.

Molas are the chief earner for the women, after the community run tourist industry.

They sell in Panama City, and have now networks across much of Latin America, and the world.


Location: Guna Yala Province (formerly San Blas) in northeast Panama. It covers a narrow strip of the Caribbean coast and the adjacent San Blas Archipelago.

Population: About 50,000.

Religion: Traditional faith 94%, Christianity 6%.

Language: Indigenous language Guna, Spanish.

Tribal status: The Autonomous Province of Guna Yala is governed by the Congreso General Guna, composed of representatives of all 51 communities. There are 49 inhabited islands in the San Blas archipelago, each with its own indigenous rules and laws.

Matriarchal features

  • Families hold special celebrations for daughters only.
  • The husband moves to his wife family home after the wedding (matrifocal residence). Everything he catches, cultivates or earns, he surrenders to his mother-in-law.
  • The oldest woman takes charge of the family property.
  • Women get most of their family income by selling molas.