The Boruca People: A Look Into The World Of Traditional Costa Rica
The Boruca are an indigenous people group living in Southern Costa Rica. Their ancestors used to rule over the entire Southern Zone in groups of chiefdoms. Today you can find the Boruca thriving on the Boruca-Terraba Reservation tucked within the landscape of the highest and wildest non-volcanic mountain range in Central America: the Talamanca Mountain Range.
With a population of a little over 2,500 people, the Boruca maintain their traditional way of life, and welcome guests to come and witness their unique customs. They are expert textile weavers, hand-picking naturally grown cotton, spinning the fiber by hand, and dying it with homemade dyes derived from the natural resources abounding throughout their community.
Today we have the very special opportunity to hear from one of the Boruca artisans themselves. Listen as she tells her story:
“We are the Fiber Artists. We are the Fiber Artists and Mask Carvers of Boruca, an indigenous group living in the Southern Zone of Costa Rica. We pride ourselves on being self-sustainable, with 80% of our income coming from our own handicrafts.
In the last few years, with the help of several people outside our community, we gained new ideas for our products, both woven and carved. Last year, we took an eye-opening trip to Guatemala to learn what products our neighbors, the Mayans, are making and selling.
We want to keep advancing into the modern world of marketable fair trade crafts, and have formed an association to help us achieve our goals, which we call the “Artesanos Naturales de Boruca” or “The Natural Artists.” In an additional effort to propagate the importance of Fair Trade, and support local artisans, we are pooling our crafts into one central marketplace at the Rancho Gift Shop of Marina Lazaro, the leader of the artisan group and one of the village elders.
Our goal is to create a global market that upholds our traditions, and is carried on by our children. It is our hope that by creatively working new designs into our traditional handicrafts we can create products that are marketable yet conserve our ancient culture.
An example of the outside help we’ve recently received was the introduction of a new loom. We can now weave wider widths of cloth, enabling us to create handmade products as large as bedspreads in just a few days. The loom is more complicated, but our children find this new tool exciting, and it encourages them to practice their weaving. They are creating new patterns and larger products that will be able to provide them with a sustainable income. Our traditional mask carvers have also adapted to the new age by learning to beautifully carve and paint eco-friendly masks.
We invite you to visit our village for a day trip or even overnight. For a small fee, we also offer home stays that include room and board and meals. This is the ultimate way to experience our ancient culture. You can see the natural dyes that we create from plants and other natural resources, and watch our carvers whittle masks from a single piece of wood.
If you are not able to visit our village, but would like to support the work of local Boruca artisans, you can purchase our products online. Take a minute and check out our products, and learn more about our traditional ways. If you have any questions, or would like to contact us, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also visit our dear friends at the Pacific Edge Eco Lodge or contact them by phone at 2200-5428. They are a great resource to find a wide selection of our products, and learn more about our ancient people group.”
The Boruca are among the only remaining indigenous Costa Rican people groups remaining today. Visiting them for yourselves would be the experience of a lifetime, but if you can’t make it to Southern Costa Rica, you can still support the work of these local artisans by purchasing their handicrafts online, and educating yourself on their fascinating ancient customs.
Have you ever visited the Boruca people, or an indigenous people group similar to them? Share your experience in the comments below!