Friday, March 25, 2016

A Visit to the Boruca Indigenous Community by Anya Conlon

In our second week at Las Cruces we visited the Boruca Indigenous Community and stayed on a finca (farm). It is a privilege to visit land that has been in the care of an indigenous family for centuries and is still under their care today, little disturbed, minimally developed. Based on the stories told during our visit, you can try and imagine the practices and livelihood that used to take place here. But the land use today, like the culture, has transformed. The finca is no longer used as a finca. Few crops are grown. The buildings, constructed in the traditional style with knowledge passed down through the generations, are used to house tourists, visitors who come to learn about the history of the land and the peoples who inhabit it.
It is a beautiful contradiction to be sitting on the floor in a rancho that was constructed in the traditional Brunca style, the roof blacked by smoke to seal it from the rain, and to watch as our host pulls out an iPad to capture the moment. José Carlos is far more than he lets on upon first introduction, and is perhaps one of the most incredible people I have had the privilege to meet. His family has inhabited the land for centuries. And, besides having lived an unbelievable life, he, along with his wife, has dedicated his life to working to maintain the culture and traditions of his people. In our short time there the two of them opened a window into the history, artisanry, and current state of the indigenous people of Boruca.

Besides participating in the preparation and use of natural dyes and watching mask-making demonstrations, our hosts invited us to participate in an ancient Boruca ritual to ask for protection and to cleanse our spirit. It was beautiful and powerful to listen to, watch, and to participate in this practice, witnessing how in touch the Boruca people were with the earth, the environment, and the spirits. Leaving the ritual, I was more calm and at peace than I had felt for a very long time.

However, what struck me the most by far, was a comment made by José Carlos during the closing, where he thanked us for our interest, for coming to learn about his people and for giving them the opportunity to perform the ritual and keep the tradition alive. His words impressed upon me the current state of indigenous peoples.  For it is true that many communities rely on tourism as their main source of income, and clearly, at times, for preserving their traditions and rituals. I left the finca feeling very humbled and truly appreciative for the opportunity, and I know it is an experience I will not soon forget.

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