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Panama's indigenous Guna recreate battle to mark anniversary of revolution to defend culture

With wooden rifles and the explosion of firecrackers, members of Panama's Guna indigenous group re-enacted an uprising by their ancestors against abuses and the repression of their traditions by police and soldiers.

Clad in red, tribe members simulated the Feb. 25, 1925, clash with police called the Guna Revolution amid parades and dances in a plaza on Ustupu, an island in the Guna Yala region on Panama's Caribbean coast.

"With this we reaffirm before the country and the world that the Guna people want to live in freedom," Anelio Merry Lopez, who serves as the communications secretary for the Guna General Congress, told The Associated Press.

In the revolution, Gunas under leader Nele Kantule attacked a Panamanian police outpost, accusing police of abuses and of repressing their traditions. After the uprising, the region was recognized as the Guna Yala reserve with an autonomous status. They were the first indigenous people to be so organized in Panama. They are currently governed by traditional authorities.

With 80,000 members, the Gunas are Panama's second most numerous indigenous group. They are known around the world for their brightly color "mola" woven cloths.

Celebrations began Saturday, and the straw- or cane-roofed huts were adorned with the red-and-yellow flag of the Gunas.

The flag has an ancient Guna symbol in the middle that resembles an inverted swastika representing the four directions and the creation of the world.

The color of the flag was originally white, representing mother earth. Today it is associated with the Guna Revolution, and the color of the flag was changed by revolutionaries to yellow and red, with the yellow representing gold and red representing blood

Celebrations ended Tuesday with adults drinking traditional "chicha" cane liquor.

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Associated Press writer Juan Zamorano in Panama City contributed to this report.

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