It is now the start of my third week here and I feel protective of this community that has welcomed me in with open arms. When I see tourists walking around, I wonder if they are being respectful and really getting a thorough understanding of Boruca or are they just here for a picture for bragging rights that they visited an indigenous community in Costa Rica? Before leaving Toronto, I questioned whether I would be able to make a difference, being a foreigner entering what to me is a precious area with beautiful culture and traditions. I felt overwhelmed after Harol (my manager/brother/tour guide/interpreter) discussed my job responsibilities one evening my first week because I have a tendency to doubt the quality of my work. Harol stated that I should make notes and provide any recommendations because for some reason, the residents tend to take advice from outsiders. There are many moments throughout the day I get emotional when I think about my loved ones at home but I know Boruca was the right choice for me. Hopefully I am able to contribute at least one positive thing to Boruca…
So = wise mature woman – cagru = warrior
By: Dagmar Reinhard
Ballena Tales #33 – 15 de noviember 2013 / 14 de enero 2014
“Dona Lourdes Rojas Frasser is an educator, trainer of trainers, president of the Association of Indian tourism, and a mother to four children.
Her most important project is to empower women to enable them to meet their children’s needs, including food, clothing, education, and the pursuit of happiness.
Becoming an orphan from the age of five, she earned her livelihood by babysitting for other families. When she was 12 years old, she received some money that allowed her to go to school. After high school, in addition to taking care of her two children, she started her career as a teacher in Buenos Aires. She returned to Boruca to learn wood carving and its symbolism from the mask master Don Ismael. She became a master carver in her own right.
Currently, she is the president of the Tourist Association CAGRU, which endorses several social projects in the village. The women promote sustainable tourism through workshops, among them, textile dyeing and weaving, mask carving, and traditional cuisine. They offer overnight stays in typical accommodations called ranchos and outdoor activities such as hikes to the waterfalls and surrounding areas.
Lourdes’ leadership has allowed her to travel and visit other countries and indigenous groups. Lourdes is the proud mother to four children, all of them with professional careers.”
Not only does this organization benefit the women who sell their indigenous art but it is also a way to preserve the Boruca culture.
The story of SoCagru
The link above is the first part of Lourdes Frasser Rojas, the president of SoCagru, explaining how SoCagru started. She went to school to do hair and makeup, which is not accepted in the Boruca culture due to it being considered superficial, became a teacher, started to paint masks, all as a means of raising 4 children on her own, then created SoCagru with the help of her son, Harol. That is my very short summary translated with my understanding of French so please watch for the amazing story straight from Lourdes (if you know French or Spanish).
– Children are on summer break from school right now and will start again mid-February
– Only 5 men in the community speak the Boruca language, Div tegat
– There are 3 women who know the ins and outs of natural medicine, they first try natural medicine for any ailments before turning to Western medicine
– There are currently no police stationed in the community but one is on the way soon
– No jaguars in the mountains around Boruca but hairs of pumas have been found in the boundaries near farms
– Brown and white cotton grow from trees all year round which is used for weaving to make bags that are mainly sold to tourists
– Teeth from collared & white-lipped peccary (saino – pig) are used to make traditional Boruca necklaces
– The main legend is about Cuasran who is the spirit that watches over the mountains
– Other legends include La Culebra about a snake (tebec), Los Duendes, Las Mamran
– So Cagru = So – respectful way to address older women, Cagru – warriors
– 30 years ago, agriculture was the main source of income but now 80% of the population relies on art (carving and paintings of the masks as well as cotton weaving)
– A y A (Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados) is the water company that brings the water from a spring in the mountain which is at capacity for the number of people who live here so they are looking for another source
– The masks are worn by warriors who conquer the bull (Spanish) in the Festival of the Devils (Juego de los Diablitos) or Cagru Rojc
– There is one museum here started and run by La Asociacion de Artensanos La Flor de Boruca
SoCagru provides lodging for up to 10 people on the top floor of this rancho
I chose this particular global experience because it spoke to my heart and soul. So Cagru is a group comprised of 12 women who started their own business selling their traditional arts of cotton weaving and mask paintings. The president of the association, Lourdes raised her four children on her own which really drew me to this organization, above all the others in Costa Rica, because my mom was a single mother as well. Due to my background, my desire to participate in any volunteer opportunities for female empowerment was a natural progression and one that I wish to take part in more back at home in Toronto like the Scarborough Women’s Centre.