Panama—San Blas—Native Indians at Beach Market


This photograph from the Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection at the Library of Congress shows two young Indians selling plantains in a city market in San Blas, Panama. Frank G. Carpenter (1855–1924) was an American writer of books on travel and world geography, whose works helped to popularize cultural anthropology and geography in the United States in the early years of the 20th century. Consisting of photographs taken and gathered by Carpenter and his daughter Frances (1890–1972) to illustrate his writings, the collection includes an estimated 16,800 photographs and 7,000 glass and film negatives. The photograph appeared in Land of the Caribbean (1925), part of Carpenter's World Travels series, with the caption: “The San Blas Indians have resisted practically every attempt made to lead them out of their primitive life, and have preserved their tribal identity through four hundred years under the rule of the whites.” The text added: “They are a very small race, averaging less than five feet in height, but they have a remarkable chest and shoulder development, and are expert swimmers and canoeists. In their fifteen-foot dugout boats they navigate successfully the heavy seas off the Atlantic coast, and bring fish and fruit to the markets of Colón.”

Last updated: February 18, 2015