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Forum LockedContacts between Sweden and the Cuna people

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Carcharodon View Drop Down
Baron
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    Posted: 16-May-2009 at 19:13
Some contacts between Sweden and the Cuna people on San Blas Islands, Panama
 
In the early 20th century Sweden etnographer Erland Nordenskiöld made some studies among the Cuna people of San Blas islands in Panama. There he cooperated with Perez Ruben Cantule a man of the Cuna people who helped Nordenskiöld with translations and similar. 1931 Kantule traveled to Sweden with Nordenskiöld. He became very fascinated with the country and wrote a book about it. One of the things he liked was the Swedish system with free of charge public libraries. That idea he took with him to San Blas and soon some libraries opened. Libraries and a well developed system of schools is some of the reasons why literacy in the Cuna society is very high today.
 
Later some Swedes has visited San Blas and wrote books about it. One of these is the author Monika Zak. One day in the 1970:ties a school class in Kungsängen outside Stockholm read a book of hers. They got interested and invited her to come and hold a lecture about San Blas. It turned out that the children asked her some questions she could not answer. Then one of the children proposed that they could write to the Cunas in San Blas and ask these questions. Monika Zak offered her help with translation and the class wrote a lot of letters and sent them. Many months later they actually got answers and from then the Kungsängen schoolchildren wrote with schoolchildren from two schools on the San Blas Islands. This writings continued for some years. In 1980 they resulted in a book "Hej min vän" (An Ai, Hola Amigo, Hello my Friend) that where published in both Swedish and Spanish, both in Sweden and in San Blas. It´s really a unique and touching book where the children from both places tell each other about their lives and cultures.
 
In 2006 Swedish TV showed an interesting documentary where the grandson of Erland Nordenskiöld traveled to San Blas and interviewed the son of Perez Ruben Kantule. He was also shown the book that Kantule wrote so many years ago.
Accompanying Nordenskiöld was a 19 year old girl whos mother is Swedish and father is a Cuna from San Blas. Now she had the oportunity to visit relatives for the first time and learn about the culture her father was born into.
 
 
 
 
 
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Baron
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19-May-2009 at 13:37
As I mentioned the book "Hej min vän" is also published in Spanish. Here is the full title:
 
Monika Zak, 1983: Hola amigo = Hej min vän. An ai : correspondencia entre los niños de la clase 6to B, de la escuela Lillsjö, en Kungsängen, Suecia y de los niños de la escuela de Isla Pino y San Ignacio de Tulipe en San Blas, Panamá.
- ISBN 91-7260-869-2
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AlmaK Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-May-2009 at 16:47
And now one of the children from the corresponding class in Sweden is going to Panamá, San Blas - 30 years later... That is me! I´m going with my husband and two kids, and hopefully we´ll visit both San Ignacio de Tupile and Isla Pino. I´m so exited to finally meet with my old pen pals - we were on the way 30 years ago, but didn´t make it then.
Smile Alma
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-May-2009 at 18:23
   In re:  "Accompanying Nordenskiöld was a 19 year old girl whos mother is Swedish and father is a Cuna from San Blas. Now she had the oportunity to visit relatives for the first time and learn about the culture her father was born into."

The Cuna actually call themselves "Tule". I have traveled to the San Blas on several occasions, but was limited to staying on Porvenir island, and travelling within the San Blas only during daylight hours. Permission to stay overnight at any of the villages is very rare. My wife found the islands fascinating. Of note, many of the women we encountered did not speak Spanish. Indeed, Spanish is heard in the San Blas only when someone is speaking with an outsider. Up until the 1980s, any San Blas woman who even went out with a non-San Blas was likely to be murdered by her family. One San Blas girl did marry an American Army lieutenant in the 1970s, but they were reassigned from Panama due to the threats she received from the San Blas workers in the old Canal Zone. Another married an American in the 80's, but I heard no reports of threats, though a Tule co-worker remarked that if I ever married his sister, he would have to kill her. Many outsiders take the presence of Blond, Blue eyed members of the tribe to be evidence of White inter-mixture, but it is in fact albinism. THe San Blas reportedly have among the highest albinism rates in the world. They call the albino members of the tribe "moon people".

The islands themselves are quite beautiful, and Alma K and her family will undoubtedly have a unique adventure. They live on the islands because the myriad insects in the mainland forests make life unbearable at certain times of the year. Thus the San Blas will cultivate plots on the mainland, but return to the islands at night. Interestingly enough, while ownership of real estate is communal, trees and plants can belong to certain families or individuals. Many a tourist has been surprised by a San Blas demanding payment of rent for a tree that they have hung a hammock on. Or for a coconut cut from a seemingly wild coconut on some small island.

Within the isolated San Blas communities, there is the occasional threat from Colombian guerrillas and narco-traffickers. That should not be a problem anywhere there is a school, as there is also usually a police station. In 1999, cell phones would not work there (cellular retransmission stations had not been put out there), and the occasional pay phone worked only for a limited time, as they were solar powered. Given the San Blas reputation for being sharp businessmen, that may have changed.
Phong trần mài một lưỡi gươm, Những loài giá áo túi cơm sá gì
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-May-2009 at 11:53
Originally posted by lirelou lirelou wrote:

  
Of note, many of the women we encountered did not speak Spanish. Indeed, Spanish is heard in the San Blas only when someone is speaking with an outsider. Up until the 1980s, any San Blas woman who even went out with a non-San Blas was likely to be murdered by her family. One San Blas girl did marry an American Army lieutenant in the 1970s, but they were reassigned from Panama due to the threats she received from the San Blas workers in the old Canal Zone. Another married an American in the 80's, but I heard no reports of threats, though a Tule co-worker remarked that if I ever married his sister, he would have to kill her.
 
Did your coworker explain the cause why he thought that way? Have the aversion against letting the women marry foreigners lessened lately? How do they feel about a San Blas man marrying a foreign woman?
 
In the above mentioned TV show the girl who visited the island where her father was born, and where he had grown up, were very well received. Her relatives showed her a lot of places and also showed her the tombs of her ancestors. Eventhough she had a Swedish mother they still considered her as one in the family.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-May-2009 at 20:22
It was quite obvious why he thought that way. The Tule view all Tule women who would even go out with a non-Tule as traitors to their race. They view themselves as a distinct people, and their albinism is party the result of such limited marriage beyond their own small group. The "Seer" (Kantule) who is credited with establishing the dress code and attitudes among them today was "Neli Kantule" sometimes spelled "Nely' or "Nelly" Cantule. I never got to gauge their attitudes towards Tule men marrying outsiders. Their society has both matriarchial and patriarchial characteristics. For instance, their marriage customs allow much initiative to the woman. When she has decided upon a man, he is invited to a feast on her island where he is "kidnapped" by her male relatives and "held hostage". He is expected to make up to three attempts to escape, and boats are left hidden around the island in various locations to aid in his escape. If he manages to get away the third time, and get off the island, then he did not want to marry the girl. Of course, he can never return to that island again.Unlike their neighbors the Choquoi, the San Blas do not go naked, and their women have a very rigid dress code. Both the men and women are noted for being sharp businessmen. Indeed, one of the first San Blas to ever graduate from the University of Panama with an advanced degree, took her degree in business administration. (See: http://www.molaartandcraft.com/)
Phong trần mài một lưỡi gươm, Những loài giá áo túi cơm sá gì
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-May-2009 at 22:42
Interesting that you mention Neli Kantule. The Tule/Swedish girl that visited San Blas, her father came from the same Island (Ustupo) as where Neli Kantule came from.
 
 
  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-May-2009 at 22:45
By the way, it seems now that the book Ruben Perez Kantule wrote about Sweden will be translated (at least into English). The book is kept by his son:
 
"While in Sweden, Kantule kept a diary in Spanish that has been described as a reverse ethnography, that of an Indian writing about the scientists in Sweden in their "museum village," library experts say. The manuscript is being prepared for translation into English, as well as publication and digitization by American and Swedish scholars."
 
 


Edited by Carcharodon - 30-May-2009 at 22:54
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Baron
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-May-2009 at 22:52
Originally posted by AlmaK AlmaK wrote:

And now one of the children from the corresponding class in Sweden is going to Panamá, San Blas - 30 years later... That is me! I´m going with my husband and two kids, and hopefully we´ll visit both San Ignacio de Tupile and Isla Pino. I´m so exited to finally meet with my old pen pals - we were on the way 30 years ago, but didn´t make it then.
Smile Alma
 
Really wonderful. Hope your stay there will be very pleasant and rewarding.
 
Ps: Jag har skickat ett pm till dig.
 
 
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