I recently went on a field trip to the Indianapolis Museum of Art with fourth graders from my school. While there, I noticed that one of the temporary exhibitions is a display of molas, an indigenous art form of the San Blas Indians of Panama. Follow this link to see information about the exhibit. I’m planning to go see the exhibit, so there might be another slice in the future. For now, keep reading to see my personal collection from the 1990s and “museum notes.”
My husband was stationed in Panama as an Army chaplain in the last decade before the American military left Panama. We lived on Fort Corozal. By taking a walk to the back of our neighborhood, we could stand by the fence and wave at the ships going through the Canal. In Panama City, we visited a famous shop that sold traditional molas as well as the Indian market where we could watch as molas were being created. This mola was given to me by my best friend in Panama. She sewed it onto an apron she gave me as a Christmas gift. We met at the school bus stop with our kids and discovered we had a lot in common. We talked or got together nearly every day! She lives in New Mexico now. I live in Indiana. When we talk on the phone, it is as if we just saw each other yesterday, although it has been over ten years since we last were together.
This is my Christmas mola. (I also have a stuffed Santa and an angel-but I didn’t want to look for them in the Christmas decorations stored in the garage!) The Indians who make the molas departed from their traditional designs to cater to the many Americans who would buy molas on all kinds of clothing and decorative items. Smart business tactic!
This mola was a gift from my officers’ wives coffee group. Each woman got to choose a mola and then the group had it framed in the wooden tray. I picked the fish design to remember one of our favorite family times in Panama. My husband loved to go fishing and went often in Panama. Sometimes our son went along, too. A fishing trip always produced an abundant catch. As the fishing trips would come back in, there were always boys waiting to clean the fish for 10 cents each. What a bargain! So fishermen would come home with a nice mess of fish filets, just right for a fish fry! We enjoyed a lot of fish fries on our back porch and at friends’ porches. Happy memories!