Holy Molas!


This past week, I have been doing more web surfing than writing. I have been gathering images and websites as references for my folders of Mexican and Latin American crafts and lesson plans. I found so many samples of mola art that I was able to make a deck of Loteria cards strictly from mola images. That was fun.

I have been playing around with ideas for using student-created Loteria cards as review or assessment tools in Language Arts and Reading. The Mola Loteria is just lagniappe. I set some ground rules first. I found as many images that fit the traditional Loteria cards as possible. There were plenty of those. I also was able to learn a bit about the Kuna Indian culture by looking at the molas depicting everyday life and ceremonies. I adapted my loteria to reflect that culture as much as possible, such as using the Kuna version of their flag for La Bandera.

For the cards that I could not find, I replaced them with items from the Kuna culture. I found breadfruit, a washboard, chicha, curanderos, and the harpy eagle (national bird of Panama). If students (taking Spanish?) were to do a project on a Spanish-speaking country, they could adapt the Loteria to their subject. I made a deck of 54 cards, but the teacher could limit the deck to 30 or whatever number they feel is appropriate.

I have also found some lesson plans that teach how to make molas. They look like a lot of fun to make. One of my Spanish-teacher colleagues has a book of mola patterna that can be printed out and she had her students color them earlier in the year. We were discussing at lunch what she could do to make the molas look more authentic. The problem is that some students don’t follow the mola color scheme, which is generally a black or red foreground with other colors in layers. I suggested buying red and black Sharpie markers in bulk, then using markers, crayons, or colored pencils to fill in the other colors used.

I will try and upload my cards to Flickr – don’t know if I can do that from school. In the meantime, here are some web resources for researching Mola art and the Kuna indians of Panama.

History and Culture:

Galleries of Mola Art:

Lesson Plans:



3 responses »

  1. Oh, sorry. I didn’t read this post before I asked where you got the molas. Good ideas for using them with English learners. Thirty-odd years ago, when I first learned about molas, I was an avid needleperson, and tried making them. It was fun, but I certainly never managed to do anything even vaguely as intricate as an actual mola. Are you familiar with the Hmong culture? They also do a form of needlework that is very much like a mola. Their colors are different – they’re very attracted to hot pink – so they have a different feel, but the skill and intricacy is equivalent. Thanks for sharing.

    • I am a compulsive net surfer and am constantly downloading images. While I was downloading the molas, I started making a loteria in my head. Then, I worked it out in Photoshop. I tried to keep to the traditional Loteria characters, replacing some with images indigenous to Panama. Fun, huh?

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