We all went on an educational trip to Danny’s Quitirrisi Huetar Indigenous community.
Here is a little information about Costa Rican’s indigenous people: The Indigenous peoples make up about 1.7% of the Costa Rican population. Like Canadian indigenous groups, these people also have territories/reserves lands. There are roughly 24 indigenous territories located throughout the country of Costa Rica. The Indigenous people of Costa Rica have a similar story to the Indigenous people who live within Canada, the rest of North America, and Australia. They are the people who first lived on the land, prior to European and African contact. Christopher Columbus arrived in Costa Rica in 1502, around ten thousand years after the indigenous peoples of Costa Rica made the land their own. The contact with European settlers caused many of the indigenous peoples to die of diseases brought to their country by foreigners.
The Huetar tribe’s territories are in two locations in the Province of San José. The Quitirrisi Huetar tribe is in San José, Canton de Mora (Quitirrisi de Mora), and the Zapatón Huetar tribe is in San José, Canton de Puriscal (Zapatón de Puriscal). Their cultural identity has been somewhat lost, although certain traditions, such as the Fiesta del Maíz, and the use of medicinal plants, have been preserved. The ancient Huetar were very wise people who had an infinity to nature, medicine (to the point that they could do minor surgery). As well as math, science, language, and sports, they were innovators, inventors, and visionary of their time
I was able to visit the Huetar Tribe in Quitirrisi, Thanks to one of the indigenous students named Danny that I was working with this semester in Costa Rica. Danny took all of us (our group comprised of the TEC indigenous students, and the 3 Centennial College students) on a field trip to see and learn about his tribe and community. Quitirrisi is located just 40 minutes to the west of Santa Ana, the Quitirrisí indigenous territory/reserve is the home to about 2000 Huetar Indigenous people.
The natives’ land is relatively unfertile and a variety of agriculture did not develop. Corn is one of the only products that is grown by Huetares. The Huetar’s crafts are products based on palm leaf, fodder and vegetable fibres. The Huetares are specialists in natural colours for dyeing clothes, ceramic artifacts, basket weaving, pottery, etc. they are sold at roadsides and at “ferias” which are the markets to sell their goods.
Today Huetares speak Spanish (due to the loss of their native language). However, one of their leaders, Juan Sanchez (or “Choto,” his name in Huetar, and also Danny’s uncle),
who shared his people’s history, culture, and challenges with our group. He has been making efforts for the last twenty years to bring back the language, customs and traditions of his people. Juan told us that the Huetares are descendants of the Mayan’s tribe. He took us on a tour telling us the significance of all the native structures as well as their meaning, and purpose, for example, the building with a thatch roof. We learned that each palm-wood pillar of the sturdy structure represents a different ancestral spirit, which makes the shelter a sacred and wondrous place.
Juan also showed us how they make sugar cane juice.
We also met with Danny’s father who makes basket weaving items, and wooden statutes/figurines, etc.,
then we met with Danny’s uncle who does pottery work. He gave use a demonstration on how he makes his pottery on his spinning wheel, and also by hand.
Danny’s cousin also had a display of his craft work too. I don’t have to tell you that I bought some stuff, because I did (you would too if you saw it… so cool!).
All I can say is that I had a great day learning about Danny’s amazing tribal history and culture, they are very humble, care and genuine people, who are very welcome and happy to tell you of their culture and customs. I am very PROUD to call Danny my GOOD friend, I will be sad to leave when the time comes to return home. Pura vida!!