It was only after I arrived in Panama that I realized that these reverse appliqued fabrics, known as molas, originate with the indigenous Kuna Indians of Panama. The Kuna are fiercely independent and tribal and have successfully resisted, sometimes violently, all efforts to assimilate and westernize them over the centuries. Walking around Casco Viejo I was struck by the beauty of the Kuna women walking in pairs or selling crafts on the promenade. I wondered why I didn't notice any Kuna men until I read that only the women dress in traditional clothing....the men wear western clothing. In addition to being a strongly matriarchal society, the Kuna are also a very slight people, second only to the Pygmies of Africa in size.
I bought some molas and also some of the arm beads which a Kuna woman "wove" onto my arm (it doesn't come off). If I was a real Kuna, I'd have these full up both my forearms as well as my calves. The men would admire my slender limbs (ahem) accentuated by my beaded decoration! My nose ring and tattoo down my aquiline nose would seal the deal!