Indigenous History

Costa Rica's Indigenous Peoples 

Between 7,000 and 10,000 years ago, small groups of nomadic individuals traveling through Central America decided to break off and make a go of living permanently in what would become modern-day Costa Rica. Several named factions, each ruled by a "king," or cacique, found stability here. After colonization in the 1500s, a majority of the indigenous peoples lost their lives, nearly having their entire cultures wiped away.

The Guaymies wore a traditional garb of colorful and handcrafted fashion. They used coloring from natural fibers found in Costa Rican plants and tree bark. Huetares, Borucas, and the Bribri tribes were also very interested in their color schemes and dye patterns. Individuals in the Borucas tribe have also been able to trace back to their intricate painting of wooden masks for the three-day "Fiesta de los Diablitos" every new year.

Other distinct tribes are the Cabecares, Terrabas, Malekus, and Chorotagas. Each of them were nearly destroyed completely through the history of Spanish colonization of Costa Rica, but each of their cultures has summarily affected the continued way of life in the region. Malekus and Cabecares still have surviving languages that are spoken among the small populations of tribal members, and have even been taught to nontribal members.

 

The Perpetuation of Indigenous Culture 

Agricultural subsistence was the mainstay of each tribe during their heydays. Unique pottery and storage of bees, beans, coffee, pigs, and other fruit and vegetable gardening among the different landscapes from sea to mountainside were refined over the centuries before Spanish arrival. There are still areas in Costa Rica that the traditional ways of life are being pursued without much influence from today's society. Some tourists even make special arrangements to view these areas.

Another very unique addition to the local tribes from the past left behind are the stone spheres discovered in the south of the country in the 1930s. "The Balls," as they are locally referred to, have had a number of theories cast in their direction, but no certain history as to their former use has been passed down. Aliens, astronomy, and social order three of the most prevalent considerations. One thing is known, these great rocks are almost perfectly round and they make for a wonderful destination.

Roughly 1% of the population in Costa Rica today is of indigenous background. The ways of life experienced by those who came before the Spanish are still prevalent in the culture today, however. Reliance on natural resources in this wild country will always be high, so it is refreshing to know that the ways of the past will never completely fade away.