Costa Rica is all about nature. Wherever you go you will find volcanoes, wildlife and biodiversity. But, when it comes about Costa Rican culture, a visit to the small towns of Guaitil and San Vicente is a must.
The indigenous knowledge of the Chorotegas run in the veins of the locals of Guaitil and San Vicente. For centuries, the residents have crafted pottery with the same techniques and materials of its ancestors. Therefore, visiting these towns is like going back in time. The simplicity and beauty of their art make it a recommended stop when staying in Guanacaste. Guaitil offers an authentic experience of the Costa Rican culture.
Guaitil craftsmen offer pottery in a wide variety of forms and usage. Especially relevant are the traditional pieces like the comal in which the tortillas are prepared. Numerous establishments also offer decorative pottery also. Either you just want a vase for a coffee table or a most elaborated piece resembling pre-Columbian artifacts.
Pre-Columbian drawings decorate the pieces as a common motif, which are made by specialists due to their complexity. Ecological drawings also adorn the crafts, highlighting the flora and fauna of the country. Although, they still represent pre-Columbian iconographies such as the use of jaguars, reptiles, and birds. The Costa Rican culture is represented in all these forms of art.
A millennial craft
The raw material used in the pottery gives a special value due to its uniqueness. The clay, used as a base, called Barro de Olla or Bayo, is extracted from a specific territory near these towns, just as their ancestors used to do. The Barro de Olla combined with Arena Iguana (Iguana Sand) forms the base of the pottery. The iguana’s predilection of this soil to lay their eggs give the name of the material.
The characteristic colors of the pottery are red, black and white. A special stone called Curiol is the base for the colors. The grounded stone combined with water form an ink or paint. Some locals specialize in extracting the Curiol manually from two mountains kilometers away from the towns. The Guanacastecans load sacks of 40kgs on their back and transport them by foot, continuing a tradition.
The pottery represents a millennial craft, which still uses primitive techniques. Some, even use hen feathers as brushes. The artisans paint manually piece by piece. The use of wood clay ovens seals the clay finishing the process.
Recently, the artisans of these communities of Guanacaste received the seal of designation of origin. Therefore, this recognition guarantees the work of hundreds of families.. This craft has been the livelihood for centuries. Imitations and industrialized pottery started to jeopardize the heritage of Guaitil in past years. Since 2017, art collectors and visitors can make sure that the pieces they buy are authentic by having this stamp. This recognition also protects this millenary art and the Costa Rican Culture.
In recent years, another threat worries the artisans of these towns. The clay “Bayo” and the Curioles, used as raw material, have begun to become scarce. Joint work with local and national authorities has led to a search for these materials in other nearby sites. Currently, professionals in the area are conducting specialized soil studies in order to guarantee the legacy of this important art representation.
We invite you to visit the towns of Guaitil and San Vicente, on your next visit to Guanacaste. The warmth of its people and the art that moves their lives will delight your heart. Your visit will not only help hundreds of families who live off the pottery, but also the protection of this intangible cultural heritage of Guanacaste.
Contact us and spend your next vacation getting to know the Costa Rican Culture.
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