Learn About Indigenous Culture

BriBri Pa Kaneblo, located in the BriBri Salitre Indigenous Territory near Buenos Aires in Costa Rica's southern zone, is a great place to learn about Costa Rican indigenous culture. When we visited there in February 2010, the elders greeted us in their native language and took us on a walk through their rainforest reserve, telling us the uses of the plants, and showing us native customs along the way.

For example, in order to prove themselves ready for marriage, young men have to find a huge, flat rock for grinding corn, and carry it to their new home. We all got a chance to grind moist corn kernels on one of these grinding stones, and got to taste the results of our efforts (the stone is heavy!) after lunch, when we sipped a warm corn atol.

Next, the elders at BriBri Pa Kaneblo took us to a beautiful spot in the forest that has been traditionally used for purification ceremonies, especially for mothers and newborn babies. They showed us how the ritual was done.

Then Don Guillermo took us up to a hilltop, the sacred place from which the Salitre BriBri can view the high Talamanca mountains, home to most of the indigenous tribes of Costa Rica.

He took a stick and drew the two triangles in the red dirt that explain the BriBri cosmology, connected at their bases to form a diamond shape. The two triangles represent the two worlds with their different levels of manifestation. Even though the high mountains separate the BriBri of Yorkín and Kekoldi on the Atlantic, from the Salitre BriBri near Buenos Aires, close to the Pacific, they share the same legends and cosmology. The Bribri on both sides of the country feel an urgency to share their legends and their honoring of the earth with visitors.

As with most ACTUAR members, it is best to make reservations in advance, and to go with one of ACTUAR's excellent bilingual guides, so that you can really exchange ideas with the people in the communities you are visiting, if you don't speak Spanish.

This destination combines well with some beach and waterfall time in the Uvita/Dominical area.

To include Bribri Pa Kaneblo in your itinerary, write beatrice@keytocostarica.beablake.com

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