Local Communities: Art & Culture of Costa Rica Indigenous People

Costa Rica Indigenous Arts and Crafts 

When Columbus arrived, there were an estimated 20,000 natives in Costa Rica. Since the Spanish came, that number has dramatically declined. Indigenous people comprise an estimated 1.7% of the country’s total population. These groups—like the Bribri, Buruca, and Maleku, to name a few—constantly struggle to keep their culture and language alive as the modern world encroaches on their territory. They can pass their traditions to younger generations through arts and crafts and rituals.
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 income. It’s a tradition passed on from generation to generation, teaching about symbolism and encouraging the tribes and other interested people how to preserve indigenous culture.

Mask Making

The art of creating masks in the town of Rey Curré, as Edison Mora—an indigenous artist—describes, begins when a tree is born in the forest. This tree whispers to the craftsman the inspiration on how to create the mask. The process continues by cutting down the tree, a step that must be carefully planned according to the lunar calendar and tides to dry the wood thoroughly. Then, the craftsman will cut a piece and measure this particular work’s height, length, and profile.
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