Costa Rica, and Latin America as a whole, have a rich cultural history crafted by our indigenous people hundreds, if not thousands, of years before the first colonizers ever set sail to discover The New World .
As years have passed, in Costa Rica, we still pay homage to our indigenous roots. We make conscious efforts to help these communities continue to develop, while maintaining their original customs and values. Currently, there are eight indigenous groups in the country consisting of the Bribri, Cabécar, Ngöbe, Maleku, Brunca, Teríbe, Huetár, and Chorotega communities. Each one of them has their own set of cultural and unique traditions. We will dive deeper into the Boruca indigenous community. And learn more about their mask craftsmanship tradition and how a new project aims to integrate their existence into the rest of the world.
The Origins of the Tradition The Boruca indigenous community can be found in the South Pacific region of the Puntarenas province. These lively people have their own set of celebrations and traditions, and one of such festivities they celebrate with great passion is La Fiesta de los Diablitos . From December 31 to January 3, La Fiesta de los Diablitos (the little devils party) is a celebration in which the people of the community commemorate the fight of the Boruca indigenous people against the Spanish colonizers. The people dress as devils, wearing handcrafted wooden masks, while the Spanish colonizers are represented as a bull.
At the beginning, the masks worn by the Borucas had a simple design. Made from balsa wood, the masks were carved only to represent the face of a devil. Currently, as times have changed, the craftsmen have started to get more and more inspired by the abundant flora and fauna in the country. They add these themes into the masks, creating unique and complex pieces of art that are worth admiring. Keeping the Tradition Alive The use of these masks has transcended their original purpose, and currently, you can find them being sold in artisan fairs and markets around the country as pieces of art you can display in your home. Due to the lack of knowledge surrounding the masks and their history, this work has gone undervalued and underappreciated. Currently, out of the 3000 Borucas living in the community, 75% of the people live based on the income generated by these masks. Due to this situation, the project of Boruart was born.
Creating Awareness, Promotion, and Recognition Enter Pablo Montero, a creative designer who lives in the Central Valley. One day, during a trip to Puntarenas, he came across a stand selling these unique masks that called his interest. He bought two and took them home with him. From that day on, he developed a surging interest in wanting to learn more about not only the masks, but also about the Boruca community and their traditions. After learning much about their culture and hardships, he decided to take action in 2021 and do something to help these people. First, he needed to get in contact with a leader of the community. This is where he met Ulises Lázaro. Ulises is a local representative of the Boruca community, and as soon as he and Pablo met, a friendship bond was created. After explaining to Pablo about the situation of the masks and the community in greater detail, they both started working on the project that is now known as Boruart. While Pablo focuses on the advertisement, promotion, and marketing of these masks, Ulises oversees moving the community, creating and providing these pieces of art. Currently, the masks are sold locally and internationally. Improving the livelihoods of many people involved in the project.
Lets Look at What is Inside Before Looking Outside At the end of the day, the project has two set goals: Providing honest and well-paid work for the people of the communities. Sharing the rich history and culture of the indigenous people with the rest of the world. By supporting their traditional masks and other local projects, we not only preserve their culture, but we also can share their work with the world. So, lets create a platform for them and share the beauty of their culture with a global audience.