Country Guide » Culture
Making local crafts is one of the few profitable economic activities Costa Rican indigenous tribes pursue. This ancestral heritage is more than just a manner to provide incomes. It’s a tradition going generation to generation, teaching about symbolism and encouraging the tribes and even foreigners to preserve indigenous culture.
The art of creating masks in the town of Rey Curré as Edixon Mora -indigenous artist describes, begins when a tree was born in the forest. This tree will whisper to the craftsman the inspiration on how to create the original handmade mask. As he mentions, the process will continue cutting down the trees, a step that must be carefully thought according to the lunar calendar and tides so the wood will be fully dry. Then, he will cut a piece and measure the height, length and profile of this particular work.
With special instruments the craftsman give life to the wood, and create different masks: usually traditional or ecological masks. The first one is used by indigenous men in ‘el Juego de los Diablitos’ and has a colorful surface painted by hand and design that includes horns, tusks and other animal parts. The ecological mask shows the traditional animals living with indigenous tribes, including birds, farm animals, wild cats, Rainforest species and many more. All compiled to demonstrate the environment in which indigenous men and animals coexist in harmony. The main difference between them is the ecological mask does not have eye holes.
Weaving is also common craft in this local town. Indigenous textiles are created by local women who first collect the cotton from the trees, dye it in different colors with natural inks and then turn it into thread by firmly rolling it in a special wooden device. Next step will start creating a pattern thread by thread in a warping artifact; and finally woven by hand into different styles such as handbags, coin purses and others. Although the process might seem long, indigenous women with experience might only take one hour to complete the three final steps.
Besides this, you will see in Rey Curré vessel-shaped crafts called ‘jícaras’, made from hardened fruits that later are carved by the artisans with images of the daily activities of the village and local animals. ‘Jícaras’ were a common art expressions in indigenous Mesoamerican tribes and they can be found all over the region. In Costa Rica “jicarás” are currently used by indigenous people as kitchen utensils and of course as cups to drink ‘chicha’, the well-known indigenous drink made from corn.