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The blending of culture between the early Spanish settlers and the indigenous peoples of the isthmus of Panama created a heritage which manifests itself in a wide variety of handicrafts which make ideal souvenirs for visitors to take home.
The Panamanian national costume, the pollera, is one of the most beautiful national costumes in the world. The dress itself is very expensive, but the gold and pearl ornaments which are worn with it make wonderful gifts to take home. The men’s costume is dull in comparison, but the straw hat worn with it is also a popular gift. It is known as the Pintado and is not the same as the famous Panama hat which originated in Ecuador.
Possibly the best know item of handicraft is the Mola, a colorful appliqué stitched by the women of the Guna tribe who live in the San Blas islands ( Guna Yala). Guna women wear the Mola in a blouse as part of their everyday wear.
Exquisite wooden carvings from the hard coco bolo wood and intricate carvings of ivory nut ( tagua) are created by the Wounan and Embera tribes who live in the jungles of Darien. They also weave baskets of the highest quality, the best of which are museum pieces.
The Ngabe Bugle Indians of the mountains are famous for the Chaquira, a necklace woven from small beads which is actually worn by the men of the tribe and not the women.