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Kuna Yala

Kuna Yala is the name of an autonomous territory or comarca in Panama, inhabited by the Kuna indigenous people. The name means "Kuna-land" or "Kuna mountain" in the Kuna language. The area was formerly known as San Blas.

Kuna Yala has an area of 924 square miles and a population of 32,446 people (2000). The comarca consists of a strip of land stretching 232 miles along the Caribbean coast of Panama, bordering Colombia and the province of Darien. An archipelago of over 360 islands runs along the coast, about 36 of which are inhabited by Kuna communities. An additional 13 communities are located on the mainland coast, for a total of 49 communities.

The Kuna revolution began on February 25, 1925 when an armed group attacked the Panamanian police stationed on the islands of Tupile and Ukupseni. The police had been involved in the violent suppression of Kuna cultural practices and had been abusing the populations of various communities. The revolution was led by Nele Kantule of Ustupu and Simral Colman of Aligandi. It took place after many meetings with the Panamanian government and even a delegation to the United States.

The autonomous status of the Kuna was officially recognized in 1930 in response to political pressure by Kuna leaders. The Comarca of Kuna Yala was established in 1938, under the name of Comarca de San Blas. The governmental structure of Kuna Yala is defined in the Carta Organica, of Law 16 of 1953.

The Kuna General Congress is the highest political authority of Kuna Yala. It consists of representatives from all of the communities in Kuna Yala and meets twice yearly. Each community has one vote regardless of population size, and votes are cast by the sailas of the communities.

In April 2003, a meeting of representatives of the 68 Kuna communities in the three comarcas of Kuna Yala, Kuna de Madugandi, and Kuna de Wargandi, declared their desire to unite the three comarcas and were reprimanded by the Moscoso administration.