Villa Quetzal

Villa Quetzal

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Indigenous Celebrations in Southern Costa Rica.

Many of you might wonder why there are two celebrations under the name of “Dance of the Little Devils” One of them from December 31 to January 2 and another one on the first week of February.

Well, the thought did not cross my mind until a close friend asked me that specific question.  I started looking into it, and what I found out is that the “Dance of the Little Devils” (JUEGO DE LOS DIABLITOS) is celebrated in two different indigenous reservations, both are located within the area of Buenos Aires, on the south west of the country, and these two reservations belong to the Brunka Tribe. 

Over the years, and because of the physical separation created by a sharp turn to the west along the Interamerican highway; they became known as two separate groups.   

Currently, you can find the Boruca Village north from the highway, and the Rey Curré Village a few kilometers to the south.    

The Rey Curré Village has the Celebration of the Little Devils during the first week of February; they have been practicing this tradition since 1978.

The Boruca Village has the  same Celebration at the end of the year; officially accepted by the Boruca Elders in1981.

These two groups of the Brunka Tribe, established themselves around 1680 by the Boruca river, which provided them with the water they needed for drinking, cooking, washing, and irrigating the fruit trees they had planted.  

The Brunka Tribe is very well known for their art and crafts, and they play a leading role in the survival of the group.  The Tribe is most noted for the ornamental masks, which are carved in balsa wood, and sometimes colored with natural dyes and acrylic paint.  Those are the famous masks that are used in the “Dance of the Little Devils” (JUEGO DE LOS DIABLITOS).   The Brunka women, until recently were still using pre-Colombian back-strap looms to weave colorful, natural cotton bags, table mats, and other interesting, and useful articles.

The Boruca Village displays their crafts in the museum, a thatch-roof Rancho by the entrance of their town.
The Rey Curré Village is about 30km south of Buenos Aires right of the highway.  It is easy to stop by the cooperative where the crafts are for sale.

The Rey Curré language is known as Yimba CAJC.

Their Brunka territory is approximately 10,000 hectares, and the population somewhere between 1,000 and 1,200 people.  Less than half of the inhabitants belong to Rey Curré reservation.

The tribe works very hard to maintain their ancestral traditions.

Historically, their territory has endured several occupations.  Around the year 1500 BC, the shores of the Terraba River were occupied by human groups for the first time.  For centuries, Curré was a small village, important producer of corn.  Around the year 700 AD, was ruling the territory, always maintaining good relations with the other villages along the river.

In the beginning of the 20th century, several families migrated to the other side of the Interamerican highway, establishing what we know as the Boruca Village. 

The Brunka Tribe lives on the fruits from the land, like bananas, beans, corn, oranges, coffee, watermelon, and rice among others.  They also have domestic animals like chicken, pigs, cows, and horses.  The river provides them with a variety of fish, that enhances their diet.

This tribe also grows and harvest cotton; it is turned into thread, colored with natural pigments, and used in the weaving of a variety of traditional and beautiful crafts. Additionally, they make decorated jicaras, which are small cup-like containers used for drinking.  
As I mentioned earlier, some of their most popular creations are the cedar or balsa-wood masks used in the “Dance of the Little Devils” (JUEGO DE LOS DIABLITOS).  They sell these masks to the visitor as souvenirs, or house ornaments.  

The long-established “Dance of the Little Devils” is the representation of a historic episode lived by their ancestors during the Spanish invasion.  Its purpose is to preserve the traditions, habits, beliefs, and language.

Its origin goes back to the colonial times, and has been transmitted from generation to generation as an oral tradition, keeping most of its original meaning.

There are two main protagonists; one is the Bull, representing the Spaniards, and the other one is "the little devils," representing the indigenous community.

The little devils have their own hierarchy.  There are elder devils, one of them is the boss, and the others are the helpers. They are responsible for the success of the event by establishing disciplinary measures, and punishing those young devils breaking the rules.

The event starts at midnight, announcing the birth of the little devils.  They start their rendezvous through each house in the community, receiving traditional food and beverages.  All of it has a background of music and dancing.

With the first morning light, the appearance of the bull is announced.   The elder devil directs the fights between the little devils and the bull during three days.  Once again, all of it happens with music and dancing as a background.

On the third day, the bull kills all the little devils; the elder devil is the last one to die.  Somehow, he returns to life and makes a very special call to the little devils, commanding them to come back to life, just as he did.  They start chasing the bull which has retreated to the mountain.  Once the little devils catch the bull; they proceed to burn it, doing it repeatedly, with the purpose of proclaiming their victory over the enemy.

The representation of this historical event ends with the showing of the bull carcase.  The pieces of the bull’s custom are sold or given as a souvenir.  The leftovers of the bull are incinerated, and everybody drinks chicha (a beverage made with fermented corn), toasting for the victory of the Brunka Tribe over the Spaniards.

When you visit Costa Rica, make sure to take the time to visit these indigenous reservations.  You will enjoy the richness of their traditions, and the beauty of their heart. 

No comments:

Post a Comment