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In times when one of the most common issues are immigrants, we cannot help but highlight the importance of the only real native population of our continent: the indigenous.

From the cold north of America that borders the Arctic Circle to the land of fire in the south, we can find diverse indigenous cultures. Many of them almost extinct and others struggling day by day not to lose their roots.

Costa Rica is not an exception. The authentic Costa Rica, the one that the first European migrants found was a land with its caciques, with a defined political, religious and economic order.

Our indigenous population is the authentic Costa Rica, join us to review the main cultures that you may discover nowadays during your next visit to our country.

authentic costa rica bri bris etnias del mundo

Image courtesy by Etnias del Mundo

Who were the inhabitants of the authentic Costa Rica?

When reviewing the literature, it is clear that there is no clarity of how the first colonizers of the new continent arrived. What is clearer is that the first human remains found on the continent date from 14,700 years ago in South America.

Another fact in which there is certainty is the important role that Costa Rica played as a meeting point for the indigenous cultures coming from the North and the South. Thus, Costa Rica was an important territory for the powerful Mexican indigenous culture to encounter the advanced indigenous civilization of South America.

The most important indigenous population in Costa Rica at the arrival of the Spaniards was the Chorotegas. Its main settlement occurred in areas of what we know today as our province of Guanacaste. However, the different tribes were scattered throughout the national territory, almost without contact between them and without recognition of a defined nationality, as is the case of Mexico and Peru.

The people of the authentic Costa Rica led a humble and rudimentary life. Its activities were based on hunting, fishing and incipient agriculture.

authentic costa rica map by Ruben Yglesias Hogan

Ethnographic map by Ruben Yglesias Hogan

 

What is left of the authentic Costa Rica?

Today, the Costa Rican indigenous population constitutes only slightly more than 2% of the total population. Approximately one hundred thousand indigenous people belong to eight original cultures of the authentic Costa Rica.

Indigenous peoples of Costa Rica:

  1. Chorotegas
  2. Bribrís
  3. Cabécares
  4. Térrabas
  5. Bruncas or Boruca
  6. Ngöbe or Guaymi
  7. Maleku
  8. Huetar

Although the Chorotegas were almost exterminated during the conquest, nowadays you can experience their millenary culture through Guaitil art. The pottery of this community located in our province of Guanacaste, keeps alive traditions that date back more than 6 centuries. The pottery technique, as well as the materials used in its production, forms, and designs, have been transmitted from generation to generation. We invite you to stay in one of our beautiful vacation rentals and your personalized concierge will help you learn more about how to visit Guaitil.

 

Another tradition of our authentic Costa Rica that is worth experiencing is the Fiesta de los Diablitos. This celebration, declared as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Costa Rica, is held by the Borucas from December 31 to January 2 of each year. With costumes and masks, the male tribe performs dances recreating the moments of Spanish invasion in their lands. The Borucas are particularly renowned for the beauty of their masks, entirely made by hand and carved in balsa wood.

Of all the cultures of the authentic Costa Rica, the Bribris are the largest population at this time. They preserve their language, culture and traditions. Although their traditions have not attracted tourism in large part because of the difficulty of getting where they live, some tours can be found.

 

Although the authentic Costa Rica was not characterized by powerful and modern cities such as those of the Aztecs or Incas, these wonderful lands that we now call home are a legacy that these cultures have inherited to us. From them we can not only appreciate their perseverance and cultural pride, but also learn from their respect for nature.

Visit our country, stay in our luxurious vacation rentals and discover the authentic Costa Rica.