National Geographic : 1912 Jul
657 LITTLE-KNOWN PARTS OF PANAMA For every-day wear, the apparel of the Cuna women consists of a short skirt, red or blue, extending from the hips to the knees. The upper part of the body is covered with a kind of loose blouse, the sleeves of which do not reach the elbow. Over these two gar ments there comes a second skirt, reach ing from the waist to the ankles. Of course, with reference to skirts, it must be understood that the word is used only for convenience sake, not meaning the rather complicated piece of civilized woman's raiment, but a single seamless piece of calico, not over four yards long, and rolled around the body. The necks of the women are loaded with necklaces made of red, white, or blue beads, to which are added old Co lombian silver coins. They also wear, occasionally, in their ears gold rings or disks, these latter like those of the men, and in their noses always another ring of the same metal, which is seen even on suckling baby girls, and is never re moved at death (see page 648). At Armila an opportunity offered it self to study the gala wearing apparel of the chieftain's wife, who was evi dently the village belle. She had on some sort of short "sheath skirt" of white materials, and a long coat made of the applique work which is a peculiar product of the Cuna-Cuna handicraft. Her head was covered with a bright bandana handkerchief. Besides her ear-disk and nose-ring, she wore on each arm a broad cuff at the wrist and a narrower band at the elbow; her legs were incased each in three tight bands, bound together by three vertical strings. Through the broad intervals the muscles were bulg ing abnormally, showing that the bands had been placed long ago and never re moved. All these latter ornaments were made of white beads sown closely to gether on a piece of strong canvas. There seems to be much variation as to the size of the Cuna houses, but they all have the naked beaten ground as floor and a high gable roof. The two islands at Nargana are liter ally covered with large dwellings, about 150 feet long by 50 feet broad, the long ridge of the palm-covered roof being 30 to 40 feet from the ground (see photo, page 650). Directly under this ridge there is a large alley, running between two ranges of high pillars, which sup port the middle part of the structure. On each side other upright posts divide the space into square compartments, each of which is occupied apparently by a separate family. There are only two low doors at each end of the building, and the side walls are made of sticks tied together, as are all parts of the building, with mountain vines. These houses are packed so close to gether that there is no space left be tween them. Each shelters from 16 to 20 families, the exact parental relations of which would be an interesting demo graphic study. THE CHOCOES "Les peuples heureux n'ont pas d'his toire!" While the history of the Cuna Cuna could be written, at least for the post-Columbian period, by putting to gether the brief accounts of the Spanish chroniclers, the quaint narratives of old writers like Wafer and Dampier, and oral tradition still current among the people of the tribe, we know almost nothing of the Chocoes They are sel dom referred to in ancient records, and in modern times they have been visited by only one or two travelers, who have gathered but scant information. Our own visit among them was a short one, limited to the lower and middle part of the Sambu Valley, in the Panamanian section of southern Darien. Never in our 25 years of tropical ex perience have we met with such a sun loving, bright and trusting people, living nearest to nature and ignoring the most elementary wiles of so-called civiliza tion. They are several hundred in num ber and their dwellings are scattered along the meandrous Sambu and its main reaches, always at short distance, but never near enough to each other to form real villages. Like their houses, their small plantations are close to the river, but mostly far enough to escape the eye of the casual passer-by.