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Main webpage of Oswaldo DeLeón Kantule

Emergency in Kuna Yala, Panama

The kuna communities of Piria and Miria Ubgigandup were devastated by fires during the last week of December, 2006. More than 600 people have been left homeless and have lost practically everything they own. Both communities are traditional kuna communities whose members survive on fishing and subsistence agriculture.



December 20, 2006, there was a fire in Piria, a traditional indigenous community of 500 people on the mainland of Panama. Forty-three homes, the school, the community centre and a store were destroyed. 314 people have been left homeless.

Piria Goes Up in Flames - 314 Homeless
Saturday, December 23 2006 @ 08:10 PM EST
Contributed by: Don Winner

By José Arcia for La Prensa - An entire town left in ashes. Forty three houses were destroyed and 314 people were left homeless after a fire in the community Piria in the Madungandí region on Wednesday the 20th of December. The cause of the fire is unknown. Fidel Diaz, the chief of the community, said that at 11:00 p.m. the leaders of six local communities finished with a regional congress and everyone else was asleep when the fire started. "We tried to put out the flames but it was impossible", he said. In the end, in addition to the material losses, the fire left three people injured. The school that had 175 students enrolled, a store and the communal center were destroyed. The director of the National Civil Defense System Roberto Velásquez Abood and Housing Minister Balbina Herrera went there yesterday to survey the damage. "The town is definitively devastated," he said.

Articles (in Spanish) about the fire in Piria

Mi Diario December 23, front page

Mi Diario December 23, page 2

Mi Diario December 23, 3rd article

La Prensa December 23

Mi Diario December 24

La Prensa December 24, page 2

December 24 , 2006
‘We need tools, not houses’
Far from asking the Government for new homes, the 500 inhabitants of the community of Piria (Madungandi reserve), destroyed Wednesday by a fire, have asked for those items necessary for them to rebuild their community themselves, explained Manuel Brenes, one of the leaders of the community.
Link to article from La Prensa

Tents where houses once stood
The people affected by the fire in the community of Piria in the Madungandi Reserve, will have provisional shelters made of canvas.

The Ministry of Housing and the National System of Civil Protection have delivered tents able to hold 15 to 20 people. They have also delivered bags of food and cooking utensils such as pots and spoons.


What is left of Miria Ubgigandup

Miria Ubgigandup
December 26, 2006, at night, a propane gas tank exploded, causing a fire that has left approximately half of the inhabitants of the island of Miria Ubgigandup (about 350 people) in a desperate situation. They have lost everything. According to La Prensa, several people jumped into the ocean to escape the fire, some sitting in canoes through the entire night.

December 27, 2006

December 28,2006

December 28, 2006

Photo from Kuna Yala por Dentro


Kuna visual artist Oswaldo DeLeón Kantule, a resident of Canada, has strong links to his people. He is raising funds that he will send to the communities affected by the fires through the Indigenous Secretariat in collaboration with the Catholic church. In addition to receiving financial donations, Oswaldo is auctioning the painting "The hunt for an Evil Spirit", and will donate 100% of the funds received for his painting.

Follow this link for more information about the auction


Kuna Yala por dentro (Inside Kuna Yala, an online magazine)

Gardi Sugdup Association
This site includes some very graphic images of the fire


To Help
Each community, through its traditional authorities, will determine its reconstruction priorities and how to distribute the help that it receives. The following needs have been identified:

tools like machetes so that they can continue to work on their farms and to cut materials (cane, fronds for rooves)to rebuild houses

cloth for sewing clothing, including molas, an important source of income for many Kuna families

The Kuna General Congress is the highest authority of the Kuna people. They are collecting donations for the people affected by these tragedies.
If you would like to donate directly to the Kuna General Congress, you can call them in Panama City at : (507) 314-1293; 314-1298, or write to them:

Donations can be made using Paypal on the painting auction site of kuna artist Oswaldo DeLeón Kantule.