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How Do We Get To Boruca?

How Do We Get To Boruca? South Pacific Costa Rica, indigenous culture

Entrance to Boruca town by Dagmar Reinhard

Throughout the year, but especially in December, there are many events and festivals in the village of Boruca. The directions below will take you straight to this beautiful village where you can experience a world of art, culture, and history.

From San José, take the highway known as Autopista del Sol Route 27, exit Tárcoles - Jaco. Follow Highway 34 to Dominical and from there continue driving down the Coastal Highway to Palmar Sur, about one hour and 15 minutes.

When you reach the junction with Palmar, turn left, taking the Pan-American Highway toward Buenos Aires. After approximately 25km, you will see a sign on you left hand side indicating the town of Boruca.

It is a slightly steep road and requires a 4x4 vehicle. The uphill road is approximately 8km, and it offers a spectacular unobstructed view of the two valleys on either side; you will also admire the Térraba River and the Cordillera on the horizon. Nearest airport: Palmar Sur.

Read more information on Indigenous Culture:

Indigenous Culture in Costa Rica

Milking of the Murex snail at Ventanas Beach

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Milking of the Murex snail

Boruca people, milking of the murex snail

By Susie Atkinson  y Ellen Hoel

The art of milking of the Murex snail has its origins in the 4th century B.C.
Cleopatra used that procedure to dye in purple the sails of her boat with the intent of flattering Caesar. The gathering of those fluids is a practice that has passed from generation to generation. The Murex snail discharges a milky-white secretion that changes colors once it is exposed to air and light. This transformation starts with a shade of yellow, followed by a pastel green, and finally, under the direct exposure to the sun, it turns into a lovely shade of purple, also called imperial purple.

Boruca people, milking of the murex snail

The women of Boruca use this unique extract to dye the cotton yarn they will use in their weaving. During the waning moon, the Borucans make a special trip to the rockiest of Ventanas beach in Costa Ballena in the months of January and February, knowing that they will find the Murex snails hiding and mating along the rocks.

Ventanas beach, Boruca people, milking of the murex snail

It is a dangerous and treacherous work to find and “milk” the snails. Doña Marina and others, pull the snails off the slippery rocks at Ventanas beach, they proceed to blow on them very carefully to cause the snails to release the fluid, letting it drip over the yarn they are holding. This fluid cannot be stored; therefore, the yarn has to be dyed on site.

The Borucans are one of two indigenous groups left in the world using this process. They preserve the life of these snails by returning them back to the rocks after taking the fluid.
Doña Marina goes to the Farmers´ Market in Uvita almost every Saturday morning. Her weavings and carved masks are also available at Pacific Edge Cabins in Dominicalito.

The Culture of Boruca

by Susie Atkinson – photos: Isabelle Aubin

Hidden within Costa Rica are different cultures and ethnic groups. There are eight indigenous groups in the country, and Costa Ballena’s closest community is the Borucans.


Boruca’s history has been extremely challenging as they live on a reserve high in the Talamanca Mountains.

Farming alone was not enough to sustain their tribe and people were experiencing extreme poverty. They were losing their pride quickly in their decaying culture.

With the completion of the Inter-American highway in the late 60’s, tourism began to trickle in with renewed interest in the annual ‘Fiesta de los Diablitos.’ This is when the local economy began to shift from agriculture to tourism. Daily life in Boruca now has changed to a focus on cultural preservation. Today eighty percent of the Borucans are artisans, either carvers or weavers.

The history and traditions of Borucan masks began hundreds of years ago. ‘Diablito’ masks, were originally created and worn with the intent to scare unwelcome invaders. When the Spaniards arrived with advanced weapons, the Borucans only had animal spirits to guide them. The conquistadores, seeing uncircumcised men with devilish looking masks, assumed that they worshipped the devil. The Borucan people were triumphant in keeping the Spanish from conquering their land and their spirit.

boruca 2

Every year since the Spanish Crusade, the annual ‘Danza de los Diablitos’, (December 30 to January 2,) has traditionally occurred in remembrance of the Borucans’ fierce resistance to colonization.

So, if you want to add that cultural experience to your Costa Rican trip, why not take a day trip to their village?

With advance notice, you can see demonstrations of weaving, dyeing, and carving. Also you can have lunch and a guided tour of the village (limited English spoken). Or view authentic carvings and weavings locally at the Borucan Gallery Gift Shop.

The Boruca Little Devils’ Game

The Boruca Little Devils’Gam

By Cristhian González Gómez

The Boruca Little Devils’Gam is a ceremony, which takes place between December 30 and January 2, originally named Cagbrúˇ rójc (1) in Brunca language, and known as “The little devils’ game” outside of Boruca Territory, is about the struggle of native Borucas against the Europeans (Síˇcua rójc) during colonial times. In a dramatic way, and with processions or walks around the community where the characters wear masks, people reenact the violent encounters between the Borucas and the Spanish invaders, represented by a mock bull (Samán) (2) . For the Borucas, these dates are highly expected, since they consider this celebration one of their most representative ancient cultural expressions.
Its importance brings together both native Costa Rican indigenous people and non-indigenous citizens, besides other visitors from abroad. This is how they reinforce their pride for their identity, and their motivation to protect the legacy that their ancestors have trusted us with. It’s fundamental to take into account that, every day, the Indigenous Peoples clash with transculturation and adversities that endanger their traditions.
Regarding their economy, the Boruca Little Devils’Gam allows various organized and touristic groups to interact, and they have a very positive participation in the community’s progress. Boruca artists embellish this activity with their masks and costumes, and prepare the staging for the walks around the area. The preparations for this party begin several months before.
During the three days, Boruca creates an environment of cultural enjoyment, family coexistence, and a warm welcome for tourists, surrounded by traditional music and a pleasant atmosphere

(1) “Diablitos”in English (2) “Toro” in English

Download 2016 – 2017 schedule >>>

Boruca Art, the Colors of Nature

Boruca colors, puravida, costaballenalovers, ballenatales (1)

By Susie Atkinson – Ellen Hoël

Did you know that a great source for natural dyes can be found right in your own yard? Leaves, roots, nuts, flowers, barks, berries, lichen, and fungi are sources of natural colors.
Yellow, orange, blue, red, green, brown, and grey are all on the color pallet used for dyeing fabric or yarns.

The essential process of dyeing has changed little over time. Typically, the dye material is put in a pot of water and the yarns to be dyed are added to the pot with water, which is heated and stirred until the color is transferred.

Many natural dyes require the use of mordants to bind the dye to the textile fibers. The ones used by the Borucans are salt or lime/mandarin orange.

The examples in the photos are as follows.Orange is from the seeds of the achiote bush (Bixa orellana).
Yellow is from the rhizomes of the Turmeric plant (Curcuma longa) that is smashed and can become fixed and more vibrant with the addition of lime. Green is from the leaves of Gavilana (Neurolaena Lobata) that are boiled for several days to get the green color. Blue is from the leaves of Azul de Mata (Justicia tinctoria), similar to indigo.

These are just a few of the sources of the the colors of nature used by the Borucans. A more extensive list can be seen on their website.

If a trip to the village of Boruca isn’t an option, then visit the Boruca Gallery Gift Shop at Pacific Edge Cabins in Dominicalito.

InFo: tel: 2200 5428 –

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