The Kuna People, around 80.000, are the second largest indigenous group in Panama. In Panamanian territory -there are also Kuna communities in Colombia- they live in the autonomous Comarca of the San Blas Islands named Kuna Yala, today one of Panama’s provinces. The Kuna also has two regional autonomous homelands in mainland known as corregimientos: Kuna Madungandi and Kuna Wargandi. They are the indigenous group in the country most prominent and politically active. They won Kuna Yala as soon as 1938, which became the first recognized indigenous territory in the country. They have achieved more political representation than any other indigenous group in Panama.  Four of the seven indigenous members of Parliament are Kuna.

However, life standards among the Kuna still enormously differ from those of non-indigenous Panamanians. Illiteracy rate in Kuna Yala is 28.3%, while the national average rate is only 5.5%. They suffer tuberculosis 4 times more than non-indigenous. Children die more at birth among the Kuna than among non-indigenous Panamanians -19 deaths for 1000 born alive against 13 of the national average-. Rates of maternal mortality among the Kuna are so astonishing that they made me wonder if the data was indeed correct (2013 UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights). More than half, 542 per every 1000 Kuna mothers die in childbirth, while the national average is 80 deaths per each 1000.


Documents you may like to check:

UN 2013 Special Rapporteur Report on the Situation of Indigenous Rights in Panama (spanish)

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