The Mola

Molas from Panama
Molas from Panama

These Molas were given to my parents by my grandmother (mi Abuela). The mola comes from Panama, which is where my dad and his side of the family are from. Molas are made by the native tribe Kuna and are all designed by hand. Originally, Molas was body art painted on during ancient times until the arrival of the Spanish. When the Spanish came to Panama the Kuna then had access to fabric. The idea is to leave as little space as possible because evil spirits can settle into empty spaces. To this day, to get a proper Mola made you’d have to go into or find someone that’ll go into the jungle and request a Mola from the Kuna themselves. From what I heard, they can get expensive, but I don’t know if it’s by American expensive standards or Panamanian. The red-based Kuna represents sunbeams shining into the huts of the Kuna, also meaning the sun protecting the family. On the Mola with the birds, you’ll see these spirals in small areas around the birds. These represent labyrinths that evil spirits can get lost in. Some Molas will tell history, others will tell legends, always to be colorful. Now that both my grandparents have passed, there’s no direct connection anymore between us and Panama. I plan to frame these or get more and create a quilt, having little pieces decorated around my home to remind me and my children of the beautiful culture we come from. Hopefully, my kids will appreciate the culture one day as well and would want to carry these in their homes.

Year: 1975

– LH

Relationship:  Grandchild of im/migrant Grandchild of im/migrant