Boruca, Bribri, and Cabécar - Orientation

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Identification. The three groups are located in southeastern Costa Rica—the Boruca on the slopes of the Brunqueña Mountain range, along the valley of the Río Diquís; the Bribri and Cabécar on the Atlantic and Pacific watersheds of the Talamanca Mountain range.

Location. The Boruca live in the township ( cantón ) of Buenos Aires (in the villages of Boruca, Curré, Maíz, Bijagual, Cañablancal, Cajón, Mano de Tigre, Lagarto, Chánguina, and Puerto Nuevo) and in the township of Osa. The Boruca-Térraba Reservation was established in 1945, later divided into Térraba (for the Teribe Indians) and Boruca and Curré (for the Boruca). The Bribri and Cabécar are in the townships Buenos Aires, Turrialba, Matina, and Talamanca. There are four Bribri reservations: Talamanca Bribri and Këköldi on the Atlantic watershed, Salitre and Cabagra on the Pacific watershed. There are six Cabécar reservations: on the Atlantic, Nairi-Awari, Chirripo, Tayni, Telire, and Talamanca-Cebécar; on the Pacific side, Ujarrás. Some Cabécar live among the Bribri, and some Bribri live among the Cabécar; a few Boruca males reside with the other two groups, because of migration and intermarriage. Non-Indians also live in the reservations of the three groups.

Demography. In 1990 the Boruca on reserved land numbered 2,660; the Bribri on reserved land had a population of 6,700; the Cabécar, 8,300. All three groups have some members living outside the reservations, in neighboring rural areas and towns. Allowing for population increase and the families outside reserved lands, the three groups may have accounted for a population of about 19,000 in 1994.

Linguistic Affiliation. The languages of the three groups belong to the same division of Chibchan languages. The most recent classification (Constenla 1992) places them in the Isthmic Subdivision of the Paya-Chibcha Stock (which also includes Paya, Votic, and Magdalenic). The Isthmic Subdivision includes Teribe, Viceitic (Bribri-Cabécar), Boruca, Guaimiic, Coracic, and Kuna. The Bribri and Cabécar are mostly bilingual, speaking their language and Spanish; very few are monolingual in their native language, and there is a trend toward becoming monolingual in Spanish. In the 1980s the Brunka language was spoken by eleven people and forty understood it.

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