No ATM, Bring Small Dollar Bills to San Blas/Panama

Fruits Purchased from a Dugout Canoe in San Blas/Panama

Fruits Purchased from a Dugout Canoe in San Blas/Panama and Guna Yala Flag (Gift from Arkin’s Wife)

Panama uses US dollars. I brought lots of small denomination bills before visiting San Blas as we had read to do so in another cruisers blog. It was helpful to buy coconuts, vegetables, and lobsters from the Guna Indians because they usually don’t have change. I still have a plenty of small bills left. Some of them are almost worn-out as they go from hand to hand, and never make it to a bank to be replaced. Some dollar bills might be salty as if they were splashed by waves on the canoes. I sometimes paid after putting the money in a sandwich bag so it doesn’t get wet. One time, I received change with a stretched dollar bill that had been used too long.

Molas on S/V Bad Bunny

Molas on S/V Bad Bunny

Most of us live on land where there are banks on every corner in the city, and ATM’s at every grocery store. Here, it is not that easy. For the last seven weeks, we saw only one bank (at Rio Diablo/Nargana/Corazon de Jesus) in San Blas but it has no ATM. At first, it is difficult to understand why there is no ATM because more money creates a better economy. Thinking more, it made sense. Bringing money from a city to a small remote island is not an easy task. It may involve small airplanes and boats with armed security guards even though San Blas is a very safe place. The amount of money to bring to a small island, may not be cost-efficient. Besides, the Guna Indians don’t use cash much. Most of them work for themselves in the forest or on the ocean seeking food or construction materials for their houses. The jungle and the sea have been providing their needs. They live the way they have lived for hundreds of years. Good or bad, the world beyond has not been their culture. It looks their happiness comes more from fresh sea breeze and the green jungles behind… Even though many of the fish are gone here like everywhere else, the jungles are deep green. I am hoping the jungles in San Blas remain for a long time. Where else in the world, can we find this kind of original first growth jungle?

Greed has not affected them very much here yet, but John thinks they are starting. In this area of the San Blas, many of the dugout boats are now powered by outboards, few are hand rowed or sailed. Only a small minority of the women are wearing the traditional clothes; whether they like it or not, the Guna’s are moving into the new age.

The Art of the Mola: Layers of Fabric Cutting and Sewing All Done by Hands

The Art of the Mola: Layers of Fabric Cutting and Sewing All Done by Hands

Mola Suvenior

Mola Suvenior

Fish Mola Design

Fish Mola Design

Mola Design

Mola Design


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