Palo Santo Crafts

Before humans had access to clothing made of cotton, wool, linen and so forth…what did we use? At least here in the Panamanian jungle…not much. Just enough to cover the essentials! The cultural perception of breasts is very different than that in the West. They are (as they should be!) chiefly viewed for their utilitarian purpose: providing babies with milk. When the sexualization of breasts is stripped away, so can the clothing that covers them. Therefore, mostly undergarments were sought for men and women. Even in this, it was more for protection that sexualization. So- where could one find panties and boxers in the jungle back in the day? According to the elders, tree bark from Palo Santo was the answer!
Step 1- cut down a Palo Santo tree and lug it back to your house. Step 2- let it naturally sweat out for a week. Step 3- whack it hard with the butt of your machete for 1-2 hours until the bark begins to sweat out. Step 4- once the bark has loosened enough, wriggle it off the trunk. Step 5- turn it inside out and wash it. Step 6- dry it for about a week. Step 7- utilize the bark cloth like a diaper, securing it with a string. You can jazz it up by painting it or soaking it with natural dyes (green from leaves, brown from barks, yellow from ginger root). For women, this natural underwear is called “nugwata” and for men “Bayi”.
Aside from undergarments, Palo Santo can also be utilized to make purses, blankets, pillows, shirts, dresses and more. If pounded properly, the texture is very soft and smooth like cow hide. Now go find an elder and a Palo Santo tree!

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