Day 22

Heavy rain greets us in the morning. We’ll wait for it to abate before leaving in the boat.

You can determine the size of the country by the number of digits in the phone number.

The boat ride to Puerto could have gone really badly, but our boatman, Keraton, is a genius at reading the waves. We bob up and down for a good fifteen minutes just beyond the Armila beach and then he sees a break and guns the motor. But we don’t slap hard down after the crest, because he throttles back, playing the two 40HP engines like a pair of musical instruments. 

We have some time in Puerto Obaldia so we grab a drink at the bar and walk to a bakery for a snack. Puerto feels rundown and makeshift. It is not a place where one can find beauty. It’s a patchwork assortment of houses and shops and has none of the charm of the Guna communities. The people here are darker-skinned, heavyset and pretty surly. Many originate from Columbia and some are actually descendants of the workers from the banana plantation in Anachucuna. Puerto is on Guna land, but the Guna were not able to take it back.

Today is about tying up loose knots, small mysteries. Bernie never got her missing power bank back and we wondered why, when the thief has been caught. It turned out that the boy was ordered by the sahila to be sent elsewhere to be tried under Panamian law rather than Guna law, but he hid himself, or was hidden by his family, so he could not be found.

And why there was so much opposition to the drone was simply because drug smugglers use drones to map out routes to run their boats, so people in Anachucuna and I guess everywhere else are very afraid about the police seeing a drone and assuming it belongs to a smuggler. And perhaps that’s why I never received permission in Armila to fly either.

Charlotte had a dream on the first night of the chicha. Earth was a cube with water lapping on all sides. We stood on the shore and the ocean grabbed Charlotte’s flip-flop, she lunged for it but the ocean pulled her in. We grabbed onto her, one by one, a long line, and then we began to travel through the ocean and the eight layers of the earth, something derived from Guna mythology.

The day is the muggiest we’ve had. Everything is wet and sticky but the process to leave is smooth and the plane arrives ahead of schedule.


On one of our visits to Lucia, the animal communicator, earlier this year, Chubs told me that I would meet people during my residency that would help me with the memoir I am working on about growing up as an Evangelical Protestant. And he was absolutely right. Though Chubs passed a month ago, I still feel that he continues to teach me through the Guna community and the artists with whom I’ve had the pleasure to talk, work and walk with over the past three weeks. It’s not so much about the content, because all of that comes from me and is already something I have, but a new way of seeing and being.

A way to live in a plastic world and yet not lose sight of the real world that I have found these few precious weeks here in Armila.

October 17 – November 7 2019
Armila, Guna Yala, Panama

Author: Marc

Creative educator. Sometime photographer. Fiddler of words.