An email from a friend and one of our favorite tour book writers, Beatrice Blake at The Key to Costa Rica , reminded me today I hadn't visited with our indigenous friends and acquaintances lately. And it is time once again to head down to Boruca (the home of a fascinating and successfully self sufficient indigenous culture) as we are nearly completely out of masks again.
This photo is of Don Ismael, the person who, in the 1970's, brought a revival of mask making to the village of Boruca. He and his son (also pictured) now teach others the craft and also make some of the finest masks we have ever seen.
Costa Rica has a darn good shot of avoiding becoming entirely globalized. So many factors have placed our adopted country in the cross hairs of a unique solution and response to the pressures placed upon all countries. It was interesting, watching the Vancouver Olympics this year to see how they tried to bring forward "aboriginal" and "first nations" as representatives of their country. Successful or not, other countries such as Costa Rica also have rich histories in their "first nations" communities.
There are in fact so few indigenous people here most tourists miss them altogether but some do find remote communities like the Isla de Chira for example.
Isla de Chira is located in the Gulf of Nicoya and per se is not an indigenous community. These folk trace their roots back to the Andalusian farmers (if a Tico ever bothers to look into their past). They are not ones who fled the onslaught of the conquistadors. However, you won't find a more "Tico" community anywhere in Costa Rica. I think of such communities as "indigenous" inasmuch as can be in the 21st century in any community. This is part of our tale of visit to Chira some time back: Rural Treats in Costa Rica
As Beatrice mentioned in her email, "I just got back from a great trip to El Descanso, BriBri Pa Kaneblo, Yorkín, and Kekoldi, four ACTUAR projects where indigenous people are successfully bringing back their culture, and using tourism to support their efforts. All the communities have a somewhat different angle on the subject." I look forward to Beatrices upcoming trip report. She has probably done more than any gringa I know to help get rural communities in Costa Rica into a better state through sustainable tourism activities.
Another web site you may like to visit is that of our friends Ginnie and Phil - you'll find their blog here: Ginnee and Phil's Esparanza Adventure . There are hundreds of reasons to support what they are doing and here's a delightful tale from one of their supporters last year:Anna's week
As Anna notes in the blog "I will never forget this most memorable week in my lifetime! It was the toughest, most difficult, arduous, dangerous, most exciting and most fascinating thing I've ever done in my 19 years of life." Think of spending some time on this project on your next visit? If you can't visit them on your trip, think of dropping some supplies for the Cabecar at the Pura Vida as you pass by the SJO airport area (we are 10 mins from the airport and even if you don't come here you can put your donation bag in an airport taxi and we'll pay the ride).
My suggestion to all our visitors is for you to find a location you like, find a place you'd like to stay and then ask them how you might best visit one of these locations while you are in that area. Remember also that a number of them have small rustic and usually spotless lodges and a night in the village will be an experience you (or your kids) will surely never forget. If not there'll be a lovely experience to be had somewhere in the area.
Another good web site to find information about these remote lodges is the Costa Rican rural community tourism association known as ACTUAR - you can reach them here doing "alternative travel" as they like to call it or just contact Beatrice Blake and she can figure it out for you. Or just ask your hotel to point you when you get there.
p.s. The nearest rural community to us and part of ACTUAR association is Nacientes Palmichal. They have done a lot to create a sustainable environment in this lovely village about 90 minutes south west of the Pura Vida Hotel here: Albergue Nacientes Palmichal
We took this photo near the water source that Nacientes is named after. They'd be happy to organize a day trip to the community and they do have a spotless and delightful lodge if you want top stay overnight.