3Ms — Panama’s good side

In my last post, I excoriated Panama for being a dishonest place and I could have mentioned a few other things, but I wish to protect the guilty. But Panama was not all bad. There are three things that are better than just good; they are great: Molas, Maito and Mitch.


Kuna woman selling Molas in Casco Viejo (the old colonial town), Panama City

Molas are a fabric art form made by the Kuna women of north-eastern Panama, in an area formerly known as the San Blas Province but now officially referred to as the Kuna Yala. The Kuna are a First Nation people still living a more or less traditional lifestyle in the home area. They had a revolution against Panama in 1925 and defeated the Panamanians, so managed to keep their autonomy, political structures and culture intact.

Molas are made by stitching several layers of different coloured cloth and cutting out designs and then sewing the cut-outs to the lower layer. They are traditionally part of Kuna women’s clothing, but are now also made and sewn for sale, including large one with various designs of birds and wildlife.

Marilyn with Kuna woman in traditional dress, in Casco Viejo, Panama City

Marilyn totally fell in love with them (She is a textile art freak after all, went crazy in Guatemala and also has a trunk-full of antique Canadian quilts from the Maritimes). When we were in Panama last May, Marilyn bought a large one which is hanging in our hallway and a whole bunch of small ones which she framed or turned into pillows. This time she again bought many of the smaller ones. I have to keep on telling her: “You like it, buy it!” whenever her Puritan instincts start taking over.

Luigi talking to two Kuna men selling Molas in Boquete in May 2010. Marilyn bought $400 worth of Molas from them. I think they liked us.

Maito is an absolutely great restaurant in Panama City, one our best dining experiences on this trip, probably second after Izote restaurant in Mexico City. If you go to Panama City, go eat there. We had a fabulous meal and I wrote a review of it on Trip Advisor.


Mitch doing the pizza thing, a familiar sight to many Yukoners. But this was in Panama. No, Yukoners, the drum is not a weird barrel stove, it is a Panamanian pizza oven. They don't need heat in Central America.

Actually, it should be Doug and Mitch, but Mitch fits better with the M theme of this entry. Whitehorse residents will be familiar with Mitch née Cormier now Dupont who founded the best pizzeria North of 60, Bocelli’s Pizza in Whitehorse. She sold Bocelli and opened a boutique hotel B&B in Chame Panama. They are also opening another resort B&B on Tagish Lake in the Yukon. So winter months in Panama, summer in the Yukon.

Anyway, the Panayukana hotel in Chame was absolutely wonderful as were Mitch and Doug and their daughter. If you go to Panama, you have to stay there. While I worked, Mitch took Marilyn to the beach in Santa Clara, we had great meals by the pool, and just a great good time. Their slogan “Come as a guest, leave as a friend” certainly applied to us; we had known Mitch through her restaurant but we were never close in Whitehorse. This all changed and we look forward to seeing them in Whitehorse and Tagish this summer. We were also planning to go to the San Blas islands in Kuna Yala together, but my disgust with Panamanians after getting tossed out of the country sort of put a kibosh on that plan. I am not sure I want to go back there again.

I should add that, last May, Mitch did offer to let me leave my truck and camper at their place, but the camper is too high to fit through the entrance. She’s great! If you go to Panama, you have to stay there! Remeber Pananyukana: the http://www.panayukana.com/

Actually, there are other cool things in Panama, like Boquete in the North and the Casco Viejo old colonial town in Panama City, which is now being restored. And there is the Panama canal, which is extremly impressive, even for someone like me who was taken to see the Saint-Lambert and the Côte Sainte-Catherine locks in operation many times on lazy Sundays while I was growing up, or Marilyn growing up not far from the Welland canal. Plus, I have to hand it to the Panamanians who are running the canal more efficiently than the Americans ever did, putting more ships through and earning more money. Panama will also be adding a third wider “lane” to the canal, which I have no doubt they will manage to do well.

But I still don’t like being lied to and bullshitted repeatedly.


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