Historical Background REAL



The Kuna trace their origin to the river Ogigidiuala, also called Koskun diuar, Amukua diuar or Río Atrato, currently in Colombian territory. According to Kuna oral history, the Great Nelegan, Kuna men and women of enormous spiritual strength and wisdom, were born from its tributaries.



Approximately 150 years ago, the Guna people moved from the forest in the San Blas cordillera to the small islands where they currently live, mainly because they wanted to escape from mosquitoborne diseases on the mainland. From then until now the beautiful coral islands and the sea provided everything the Gunas needed, and they adapted their way of life and some of their traditions. Now, because of the rise in sea level due to climate change in addition to population growth, the Gunas need to start moving back to the mainland and adapt to a new environment once again.


The Kunas can be said to have successfully resisted any effort at colonization. 

“During the times of the Spanish Conquest, our elders lived in the Darien rainforest.  There they resisted, for more than 250 years, the Spanish attempts to conquer the Darien in order to extract the area´s gold and suppress the Kuna people.  Despite this, our elders started the 19th Century with large areas of the Darien region under their control”

En los tiempos de la conquista española, nuestros ancianos habitaban el bosque lluvioso del Darién. Allí enfrentaron por más de 250 años la presión de los intentos españoles de colonizar el Darién, extraer el oro de la zona y someter a los Kunas a su control político. A pesar de esto, nuestros abuelos entraron al siglo XIX, con grandes áreas de la región del Darién bajo su control.


In the middle of territorial disputes, with Spanish colonizing the region, Scottish and French settlers, English pirates

end of 19th Century US banana corporations

In 1903, as it happens in many other parts of the world with other minority groups, Kuna communities became divided between newly- created state borders, in this case between the countries of Panama and Colombia. Currently, the Kuna people live in the comarcas  of Kuna Yala, Wargandii, and Madugandii and the communities Paya and Púcuro in the Darien region in Panama.  In Colombia, Kuna people live in the regions of Arquía and Caimán.

The fight that took place in 1925 to control their territory, the Tule Revolution, ended with the region acquiring the status of autonomous, recognized by subsequent laws since the 1930s.

but they have been successful protecting their territory from all kinds of outsiders, from small settlers to large entrepeneurs and state officials.

US military personnel established, during the Second World War, a military checkpoint near the El Porvenir peninsula to protect the Panama Canal.

Kuna Yala has been pretty isolated till very recently, when a 41 kilometers road connecting the port of Gardi with the interiot of Panama was paved.

Documents you may like to check:

Kuna history by the Kuna (spanish)


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