Threads of Time: Tradition and Change in Indigenous American Textiles

Blouse with the Panamanian Flag



Blouse with the Panamanian Flag


While Americans associate red, white, blue, and stars with the U.S. flag, these colors and symbols are also characteristic of the Panamanian flag. This is not a coincidence, since Panamá’s flag designer consciously honored the United States for helping them achieve independence from Colombia in 1903.

In this Guna woman’s blouse the sleeves and yoke area feature stars and areas of solid blue (in the Panamanian flag this stands for the liberal party), solid red (for the conservatives), and white areas (for peaceful relations between the two). It is interesting, however, that an indigenous woman would wear the country’s flag, given that the relations between the Native populations and governments since the Europeans first invaded the Americas have been anything but positive. Indeed, the Panamanian government and the Guna were often in conflict; again, it was the United States who aided the Guna in achieving semi-autonomy from Panamá in 1938.

In the mid 1990’s, around the time this blouse was made, the Guna were also officially recognized by the Panamanian government, perhaps the reason for this blouse’s expression of loyalty. Guna women can hold the rank of chief, as well as men, so a woman expressing her political beliefs in her dress is understandable.

Geographic Area

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







Credit Line

Anonymous gift

Accession Number


Photo Credit

Photo by Michael McKelvey, 2017

Exhibition Checklist