Threads of Time: Tradition and Change in Indigenous American Textiles

Dulemola (Blouse Panel) with Double-Headed Eagle



Dulemola (Blouse Panel) with Double-Headed Eagle


Dulemolaguna may include overtly political content as well as geometric and natural subject matter, as in the blouse with the Panamanian flag elements at right and the Panama Canal at left. Women have a strong voice in Guna chiefdoms, one reason they may incorporate social commentary in their blouse panels. At far left a double-headed eagle is almost certainly an allusion to the Spanish ruling house, the Habsburgs, who engineered the invasions and early colonization of Central and much of South America under Charles V and Philip II. This emblem had a very long history of association with empires as far back as the Hittites, through the Holy Roman Empire, and into much of Europe from the Middle Ages onward. Today, the double-headed eagle remains on the coat of arms and flag of Toledo, Spain.

At the height of the Spanish empire, with its many colonies throughout the world, this symbol was introduced and copied in many media. In an interesting case of commonality between disparate cultures, multiheaded animals were—and remain— important in shamanic art (see a dulemola with snakes). Such creatures are often reported in the visions of shamans and have characterized indigenous American art for millennia. Therefore, this “new” image reverberated with important pre-existing ideas and images. This is true of many imposed cultural elements:

to be accepted, the colonizer’s concept must relate to what already exists in the worldview of the colonized. In art, the “influence” of outside images such as the Habsburg eagle likewise is a choice on the part of the dulemola artist. 

Geographic Area

Central America, Guna Yala (San Blas Islands/North Coast of Panamá)




Late 20th century



Credit Line

Anonymous gift

Accession Number


Photo Credit

Photo by Bruce M. White, 2012

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