October 28, 2008

A bit of folk art from Panama

This is my Mola, purchased in Panama in 1971. The following pictures are details of it. Click on the photos to see more details up close.

The Cuna Indians from the San Blas islands.

In the summer of 1971, when I was 8 years old, I took a trip to Panama with my mother,brother,and sister. It was my very first plane ride and boy was it exciting. When you are 8 years old, trips like that seem to take forever! I still remember getting off the plane in the evening,and the humidity hitting me like a ton of bricks! The trip,after all these years, is still quite vivid and I have amazing memories of my time there. My mother is Panamanian,and it had been quite a while since she had visited Panama since she left for the United States. She was 20 years old when she met my dad, a Canadian by birth,but a U.S. Army soldier. They met through mutual friends and married in Panama. My brother was born there and moved back in 1993. I have not been back to Panama since that trip,but would love to go again,and visit family.
The Mola above is a special treasure from there and I still need to get it framed. I ran across it while I was organizing some fabrics,and thought I'd share this beautiful piece of folk art. When I was little I loved opening the sides and seeing how they might of constructed it. You can go here if you are interested in the history.
One of my very vivid memories of Panama, is spending the day in the old part of the city and eating all kinds of very yummy street food and a sweet treat called "Raspados" it was shaved ice with a syrup,and condensed milk. In the main square I remember seeing one of the Cuna indians in the most spectacular clothing. They are very striking in appearance, and wear a lot of gold bracelets,nose rings,and other colorful jewlery. This particular woman had a baby wrapped in a beautiful vibrant sling of sorts,and she wore a dress with all the appliques that you see in the Mola above.Can you imagine an 8 year old from California seeing such a site?! To this day, I have never forgotten her. My mom purchased three Molas when we were there,and I got this one. Like I said, I really need to get it framed so it will be more protected.
Hope you enjoy the photos of this lovely art.


  1. Elizabeth, what a lovely story. The piece of art is equally as lovely.


  2. I agree with Dawn, great story! And you made me wonder where my mola is. A friend gave one to me years ago as a gift and I had it framed. I think I loaned it to my daughter for her first apartment. Well, I can enjoy looking at the photos of your mola and it has a better history to go with it.

    Molas are wonderful art, they look ancient and modern, simultaneously.

  3. What a great story, Elizabeth. The things you learn about people... wow!!

  4. i enjoyed reading about your childhood experiences in panama and the mola is very beautiful. i'd love a raspado right now, too.

  5. Thank you for sharing such an extradinary story!