Old but new: Part three of my visit to the Guna Yala – Rules and regulations everywhere

According to established international standards, if you want something from someone, you ask the person politely. As the reader of the present text might anticipate, something went amiss while I tried to obtain a permit for taking pictures on the island.

Yes, it was necessary to obtain a special permit, as the Guna Yala like regulations as well as fines and fees too (such as no dogs walking around freely during fairs – a fine of 15 USD, speed limits for boats passing an island – 30 USD, taking pictures without permit – 500 USD, entering the Guna Yala territory as a visitor– a fee of 6 USD etc.). The Guna Yala People formed an autonomic territory and rule themselves according to their own laws, which wary even from island to island. It’s one of the few nations of Latin America who resisted the Spaniards successfully. They even supported the English and Dutch corsairs as well as pirates, intensifying the heavy losses which the Spanish treasure fleets sustained from the raiders.

Also, the bureaucrats of the then new and (semi)independent Republic of Panama tried to force the Guna Yala into the existing structures at the beginning of the 20th century, but had to give up the idea after a long and bloody conflict. Finally, the Guna Yala got a far-reaching autonomy (Comarca Guna Yala), which had implications for me too. But I´ll come back to it later.

The first steps of the before mentioned application worked out perfectly: The greeting, the introduction by a spokesman, the exchange of courtesies, the payment of the documentary fee (yep, it was even written down in the village´s statutes). But then the receipt fell to the ground, and while trying to pick it up the village elder and I exchanged mighty head blows. I don´t know what hurt more: The physical or the mental blow – my reflexes proved to be exactly as fast (or slow) as those of a more than 70 years old man. Fortunately, he took it better than I and gave me the permit to take pictures of the mysterious Innamutikit ceremony – given that the concerned family approved too…

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