Boruca, Bribri, and Cabécar - Settlements



The main village of the Boruca is a town by the same name. It is located 240 kilometers east and south from San José. The Diquís, or Grande de Térraba River, borders the village 10 kilometers to the southeast. All the Borucan hamlets are bordered by this river or lie close to it. The Pan-American Highway passes through some of the villages and hamlets and near the others. The roads that branch off from the highway are unpaved, rough, and difficult to traverse during the rainy season. Houses have been built over the hills, separated by grassy or cultivated areas. Some of them are in the traditional style: huts with steeply peaked roofs thatched with savanna grasses, their dark brown walls made of broad, horizontally placed wood boards. Frame houses with metal roofs, in the style of rural Costa Rica, are more frequent today, however. All other buildings (stores, churches, schools, medical facilities, jails, storage places, dance halls, and community centers) have metal roofs and are constructed of painted, sawed boards or of cement. The houses are usually built near creeks or small rivers flowing into the main river. Those located near the nucleus of church, community center, stores, and school have running water, showers, and sinks inside; electricity is available, and there are telephone booths in the villages or hamlets. The Bribri and the Cabécar traditionally preferred a more dispersed pattern of homesteads than did the Boruca. Until the 1970s, they did not really have a "village" because they distanced their homes from schools, chapels, and other public buildings. Traditionally, they built rectangular and oval thatched-roof huts. The conical hut of the nineteenth century has been revived as a gesture of cultural revitalization, but given that it is a major undertaking to build such a hut, only three of them have been erected, as community centers. It was this type of house, however, that better reflected the cosmological views of the Talamanca; fortunately, this symbolism is now known. The thatched-roof houses, large and raised on stilts on the Talamanca plain, are also being replaced by the painted frame houses of rural Costa Rica. Today, with the increase in population and the shortage of land for cultivation, as well as the reduction of the forests, the patterns of Bribri and Cabécar settlements more and more resemble those of the Spanish towns. There is a central plaza surrounded by public buildings; nearby are homes with access to running water and electricity.


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