Panama will propose next March the mola, a colorful and symbolic cloth that indigenous women of the Guna ethnic group wear, for the list of intangible cultural heritage of Unesco.
"La mola is very well known nationally and internationally as a cultural expression of the Guna community and it is also a very delicate craftsmanship", explained the Panamanian Vice Minister of Multilateral Affairs and Cooperation, María Luisa Navarro.
The international organization, which annually adds new artistic expressions to that list to promote its conservation, will decide on molas in 2021, Navarro added.
The molas are strikingly colored fabrics with geometric or figurative designs that represent the worldview of the Guna people, one of the seven indigenous ethnic groups that exist in Panama, and that their ancestors have worn since their ancestral times.
"The mola represents the hands of a Guna working day and night, sewing, thinking about the future of the town, it is a way of educating our children", said the Guna chief Belisario López.
The technique of making is very laborious, since it is cotton fabrics superimposed and sewn by hand. The artisans take about a month to make a mola.
The Central American country has achieved in recent years that the traditional "pintao" hat and the Congo culture, a series of unique expressions and rhythms developed by African slaves in colonial times, have been recognized as Unesco's intangible heritage.
The announcement of the nomination of the mola takes place on the 94th anniversary of the Dule Revolution, which led the Guna people in 1925 to defend their customs against the imposition of Western culture.
The uprising, which lasted a week, led to the recognition of the Guna culture by the State and, later, in its autonomy. The Guna were one of the first American Indian ethnic groups that acquired rights over their territories by constitutional provision.
In Panama there are about 400,000 indigenous people, who represent around 11% of the total population and who are grouped into seven ethnic groups: Emberá, Wounaan, Guna, Ngäbe, Buglé, Naso and Bri-Bri.
Many of these people live in the five indigenous regions that currently have their own legal recognition and autonomy: Emberá-Wounaan, Guna Yala, Ngäbe-Buglé, Madugandí and Wargandí.
Although the Central American country is one of the fastest growing in the region, the situation of indigenous people is precarious, as poverty affects 96.7% of the population and chronic malnutrition affects 72% of children under 5 years of age, according to the latest official survey.