by Susie Atkinson – photos: Isabelle Aubin
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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.
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.