San Blas and sustainable tourism

Nowadays, the community is dedicated to agriculture, artisanal fishing, handicraft, traditional molas sewing and a growing percentage is working in tourism....

Gabriela Pedrotti 2020-11-11 12:13:54

The indigenous region of Guna Yala, better known as San Blas, is strategically located on the east coast of the Panamanian Caribbean, covering an archipelago of 365 islands of which 36 are inhabited by the Guna ethnic group. This region has struggled to defend and preserve its culture and traditions since the so-called Guna Revolution in 1925, which has allowed the development of a different and independent political-administrative system, governed by their own legislation and institutions.

Nowadays, the community is dedicated to agriculture, artisanal fishing, handicraft, traditional molas sewing and a growing percentage is working in tourism. Gradually, the tourism activity has gained momentum as a result of the attractive islands of crystal-clear waters, white sand and picturesque coconut trees. However, a unique aspect that differentiates San Blas from other Caribbean destinations is the active participation of the community in the provision of tourist services. Through cooperatives integrated by Gunas, the ground services, as well as boat transfer to the islands, food and accommodation are provided, which has allowed the development of a tourism offer managed entirely by the community.

As a result of this organization, the community benefits directly from tourism, although, the great challenge they face today is to become a sustainable destination, developing services and infrastructure that efficiently and rationally take advantage of the natural wealth of which they enjoy, preserving the delicate biodiversity and guaranteeing a quality service. At the same time, the challenge is to motivate young generations to preserve their indigenous roots, not only as an instrument to attract tourists, but to feel pride by their essence and values.

The key to achieving these goals lies in the formation of new generations, as well as in the improvement of the educational system to render it accessible to all. Efforts to reach this goal has been carried out, such as the Intercultural Bilingual Education Implementation Project in the Guna Territories of Panama, benefiting for more than 10 years a large number of young people belonging to these communities. It is necessary to continue raising awareness among these communities in order to develop a long-term sustainable destination.

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