Costa Rica Blog

Visiting a Boruca Indian Village, Costa Rica Living

Posted by Steve Linder on Tue, Nov, 17, 2009

 A visit to the Boruca Indian Indigenous Village

The Adventure: As we drove further up the ridge I realized that even if we had wanted to turn around, the road was too narrow to even consider it.  If we slid off the road on either side, we would surely plunge to our death.  We were headed to the village of the Boruca Indians, one of the last indigenous tribes left in Costa Rica. 

A Quick History: When the Spanish arrived in Costa Rica, there were very few native people to be found.  Even before the Spanish had actually arrived, the diseases brought by the white man were already traveling down the isthmus of Central America.  When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, the Boruca Indians were fierce fighters and managed to escape the battle with the Spaniards.  Today, the Boruca Indians celebrate each year with a Fiesta de los Diablitos, the festival of the little devils, which takes place early in February each year.  During the festivities, the males of the tribe dress in carved wooden masks and the event begins with a battle against a masked bull, to symbolize fighting the spirits to save their homes. 

About the Boruca: The Buruca Indians are part of the tribe of the Talamanca, named after the river located just below their reserve.  The Boruca people live on land granted to them by the Costa Rican government in 1956 in one of the first indigenous land grants in Costa Rica known as the Reserve Boruca Terraba.  Their land is located along  the bank of the Terraba River as well as high atop the frontal ridge in the Talamanca mountain range, just south of the town of Palmar Sur.  The Boruca tribe had it's own language although there are only a few elders who still speak it.  The tribe has long been self sufficient farming corn, coffee, beans, cassava, papaya, pigeon peas and rice.  The Boruca tribes have chosen to live in isolation, raising money through sales of carved wooden masks and woven articles.

Real World Pressure: Recently the public utility ICE has been trying to build a dam in the Terraba River just below the location of the Boruca tribe's reserve along the river.  The dam would flood the area now home to many of the tribe.  The construction of the proposed Boruca hydroelectric Dam would require many of the tribe to relocate.  As in the past, the Boruca Indians continue to fight a battle to save their lands from being taken from them by outsiders.

Getting There: A visit to the Boruca village atop the Talamanca ridge is a breathtaking experience.  It is an easy day trip from the southern region of Costa Rica but making the visit requires 4 wheel drive and is not for the squeamish or those afraid of heights.  It is an easy afternoon trip from our developments. 

    Boruca Indian Mask

Tags: History and Culture, Costa Rica