Leisure Recreation and the Arts

Both men and women work hard, but except in cases of special need or hardship, they enjoy daily leisure as well as occasional days off. Women take periodic breaks throughout the day, men take a longer free period after their return home, most often in mid-afternoon, and both are released in the evening from all but minor household tasks. Men and women spend a great deal of time in conversation (in both same-gender and mixed groupings), and both visit friends and kin in other households. Late afternoon visiting, however, has been strongly associated with men, who make several stops on their peregrinations to be given drinks and (in the past) fed meals. Teenage boys—and more recently girls—devote afternoon hours to basketball and volleyball, and in many communities Sunday is now a day of rest or light work.

At sunset and into the evening, adolescents cruise the streets, something they would have been strongly discouraged from doing in the past. Men chat, play dominoes, and sometimes have a beer on the porches of stores and homes. Until recently, almost everyone would attend sacred and secular village gatherings, women on alternate nights and occasional mornings, men almost every night. In the past, men also devoted a great deal of time in the evening or late at night to learning and practicing ritual, and the more ambitious among them would make extended trips to learn away from home. Today, however, apprenticeship has almost ceased.

Women, especially the young and middle-aged, devote much of their time free from other tasks to sewing, to the extent that one of the calls to singing gatherings is "Go sew molas!" (Mormaynamaloe!). Salvador (1997, pp. 168-170; see also Tice, 1995, p. 124) notes that older women often make it possible for juniors to sew by taking on the most time-consuming household tasks. For some resource- and worker-poor households, mola sewing has become a demanding and nearly full-time occupation (Tice, 1995). Almost all women sew molas, but only a few are known for cutting top-quality designs.

Every few weeks or months, people stop work to attend a puberty ceremony in their own or a neighboring village. Men and women sit at opposite ends of the innanega or chicha house, though they also mix and converse in passing. Both drink heavily of the cane beer (inna) and both get drunk, though men are more likely to continue for long periods with purchased rum and aguardiente. (Men also drink much more frequently and heavily than women during national holidays.) In two episodes during the long 4-day ceremonies, men and women dance, both separately and together. Since World War II, several islands have created secular dance troupes (noga gope) based loosely on puberty dancing, with practices and performances in the afternoon or evening.

Although women have their own forms of singing (lullabies and mourning), men predominate in the verbal arts. In the realm of material art, the woman's sewn mola blouse receives wide recognition at home (chiefs chant that needle and cloth are women's paper and ink) and even more in the wider world. During the 1920s, a program by the Panamanian government to eliminate nose-rings and leg-bindings highlighted the importance of women's dress as an ethnic marker, and today molas— and the women who wear them—are widely taken as key symbols of both Kuna and Panamanian identity.

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