In the Southern Zone of Costa Rica live a group of indigenous people who claim they are the only tribe who were never conquered when the Spanish arrived, and they are very proud of this claim. So much so that they even celebrate this claim, and re-enact this in a yearly festival called “Danza de los diablos”, Dance of the Devils held from Dec. 30-Jan. 2nd.
This festival is important to these indigenous people for a number of reasons. They celebrate their resistance to the Spanish colonization that occurred throughout Central America. During the 4-day festival, they re-enact the Spanish being overcome and chased off by the Boruca. They celebrate that they continue to maintain a rich culture in the face of foreign influence. They are famous for their traditional masks used during this festival.
Their ancestors originally ruled over the entire Southern Zone in regional chiefdoms, and now you can find them thriving on the Boruca-Terraba Reservation tucked up in the highest mountain range called the Talamanca Range. Today these indigenous people are focused on preserving their cultural heritage and ancient handicrafts. They maintain their traditional way of life as expert textile weavers and master mask carvers. The fabric made at the village has been made completely by hand – from the naturally grown cotton, to creating the individual dyes from local plants, animals, and mollusks, to designing their own looms for weaving their wide range of fabulous fabrics. The designs of the carved masks have been handed down each generation, but now some of the new breed of indigenous carvers are starting to design masks that represent how they perceive their natural world.
The elders at the village are committed to keeping their rich culture alive and thriving. As well as dedicated to keeping their young people connected to their indigenous heritage by continuing their unique handicrafts skills. They have made a decision to enter the modern world through marketing their goods at fair trade events, and have formed an association to support themselves in achieving their goals called the “Artesanos Naturales de Boruca” or “The Natural Artists”.
The village invites you to come for a visit on a day-trip, or even an overnight home-stay for those who would really like to experience this culturally rich adventure. For a small fee, some of the families have opened their homes to include room, board, and meals. This is a truly unique way to experience their ancient culture. The artisans association has created a small, yet informative museum with an elder available to provide a tour of the facilities. There is a small gift shop if you are interested in finding an extraordinary piece of historical richness to take home with you. You can learn more about how they create the natural dyes and weave their unique patterns, and also watch their resident carvers create the captivating masks they are so famous for.
Consider visiting the Boruca people and their village as they are among the only remaining indigenous people in Costa Rica today. The drive itself to the village is an experience to be remembered as it takes you along the spine of the mountain range, and the views are absolutely stunning and breathtaking. Best to take that trip only during dry season though as the road can be treacherous during the rainy season.
As a means to reach out to the modern world and access the new markets available there, they have created their own website at http://www.boruca.org/en/about-boruca where you can learn much more about these determined people. If you are not able to visit their village in the mountains, but are interested in supporting the work of these local artisans, you can purchase pieces of their unique handicrafts online.