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View Map of Indigenous Territories Region Brunca


It is possible that upon arrival of the Spanish the name Boruca was used to refer to an ample extension of southern Costa Rica. The boruca people currently live in two territories: Boruca and  Curré. Boruca is located 12 Km. from the Interamerican highway, starting on the place called El Brujo. Curré is found 30 Km southeast of Buenos Aires, on the Interamerican highway.             

There are clear indications that the Boruca was a warrior people. Another feature is they were good sailors and boat constructors with which they sailed the Térraba river up to the coast.

In 1629 the borucas were “reduced” under Spanish dominion. Boruca became a stop along the mules trail instituted by the Spanish, transporting goods from Central America to Panama. The natives were transformed into muleteers and providers of tributes for the Spanish, especially corn, beans, textiles, dye of textiles and work such as boat construction. 


People of survivors

Very hard chapters are known of the boruca people’s history, characterized by the scarce religious assistance, strong human exploitation,  intense and systematic extraction of labor and riches in exchange of abusive treatment. The natives had to sow two maize fields and two fields of beans, and later take the grains on their backs to Cañas (palmar Norte) and load it in canoes headed for Nicoya. They were ordered to manufacture canoes with no payment and then head to Nicoya, Chiriquí and elsewhere to sell them. When their agricultural system was intensified, production was less diverse and with less rest for the soil, a decrease of productivity ensued. All of this affected the lives of the boruca people. As a result of this unfortunate situation many borucas had to flee taking women and children to Nicoya, Chiriquí and Punta Burica.

Deterioration and the decrease of the population were such that there were proposals to relocate this community to Tres Ríos and Esparza. The same was experienced by other indigenous peoples of the region who did not experience the same luck as the Boruca, and finally succumbed.  The current boruca population is the sum of a series of indigenous peoples from  the  region, most of them disappeared. This is due to that at the time when their survival perished other groups were added to them such as the Coctu en 1666 and the Quepo in 1746, peoples who were also faltering, victims of   the Spanish exploitation.

By the end of the nineteenth century a new flourishing of the boruca and a climate of expansion people is fortunately observed.  At the beginning of the twentieth century there were Boruca people again in Curré, Palmar Norte and Puerto Cortés. Characteristic of this new phase of their life were boat trips on the Térraba to  the  coast to elaborate salt  and sell products in El Pozo (Puerto Cortés);  the use of colonial outfits by the women, the Fiesta de los Diablitos(Festival of Little Devils or Ancestral Spirits), the Baile de los Negritos, as well as  the former manufacturing of rope from lianas, use of trojas and tabanco to keep the harvests, carrying children, and harvests in jabas, participation in juntas (form of collective work), the fishing and hunting. 


Borucas and cultural change

The banana plantations in the southern region since the thirties, the opening of the  Interamerican highway by the middle of the sixties, the massive arrival of meseteños (plateau dwellers)  and the process of modernization in general, generated drastic changes in the  borucas’ life style. Notwithstanding, amidst such strong processes of cultural, change movements of revaluation of the traditions and indigenous culture have generated. Proof of this is the recovery of traditional knowledge such as the handicrafts and, particularly, the elaboration of masks. One of the most representative traditions is el Juego de los Diablitos (3.1.1).


El juego de los diablitos

The Juego de los Diablitos is the most important traditional activity of the Indigenous Boruca People. It is practiced in Boruca from December 30 to January 2, and in Curré during the last week of January. The game evidences the brunka culture in its full splendor being directly related to the ethnic identity of the Boruca People. Year after year, the borucas are born, pass away and come back to life symbolically. The game is a fight where the diablitos (little devils) represent the Boruca People and the bull symbolizes the Foreign Invader. .

Events of the Game:

  • Around midnight the boys climb up a nearby hill and there at 12 o’clock the diablitos are born, dressed up in their masks and costumes. It is a merry, care-free activity under the authority of the Diablo Mayor (main devil), dancing, eating tamales, and drinking chicha (alcoholic drink).
  • At dawn the bull appears as an annihilating force, whose purpose is putting an end to the diablitos.
  • During three days the bull fights against the diablitos conducted by the Diablo Mayor. In the afternoon of the third day, the diablitos fall, apparently defeated by the bull, and their bodies are left lying on the ground. The last one to fall is the Diablo Mayor.
  • The bull flees and takes refuge on the hill.
  • Miraculously the diablitos return to life. To some a woman is the only one who does not die and it is she who comes back to life, magically to bring the ethnic group back too. Listening to a calling from the Diablo Mayor and his caracol (snail shell), the diablitos rise and the search for the bull begins.
  • The diablitos begin hunting the bull, until they kill their adversary.
  • The diablitos, along with the entire community, are enraged against the bull. The remains are paraded by the surroundings. The pieces are sold or given away as gifts. Its blood is the chicha that everyone drinks. The remains of the bull are burned on a bonfire.
  • Everything ends as a party, with full participation of the town and the visitors.

 The party ends, but the final is transitory, as each year with el Juego de los Diablitos, the indigenous identity of the Boruca People is reborn. Each time Los Diablitos is celebrated, Boruca and Curré come to life again. 

Juego de los Diablitos - Reciente


Borucas displaced from Palmar Norte


El Palmar de los Indios

Historians and neighbors mention the existence of boruca families by the end of the nineteenth century in a place called “El Palmar”, where “Palmar Norte” is today. It is probable the head of this group was Agustín Díaz. Don Agustín dies in 1892 and is succeeded by Virginio Díaz as head of the household, man remembered by all for his good ways: “an absolute gentleman and thorough Christian, tall, slim, of peaceful treatment.” Don Virginio’s ranch, “the largest, most comfortable and tidy of the locality,” was house for many travelers en route to Buenos Aires, Térraba and Boruca towards El Pozo.


The Banana Company and the eviction of indians

Using multiple schemes, the Banana Company managed to displace the Indians at Palmar in 1927,  and despite its being a territory of ancient indigenous occupation, titled lands to their name. The same was done with El Pozo, Ojo de Agua and Balsar. At the time Palmar was a town with straw ranches which counted with a shrine, and a recently inaugurated school. Many of these natives had presented land complaints in 1914, but possibly by lack of knowledge did not revalidate them in 1919. When they wanted to update them, the Company stopped the complaint. It is said that first they evicted them from their farmlands and later from their villages. In 1935, a correspondent for the newspaper “Trabajo” interviewed some natives who manifested: “We had our maize fields planted in lands we had worked all of our lives; when the Company moved in, and in unison with the Police Agent, those lands were taken away from us.” 


Venancio -Symbol of the indigenous resistance

Venancio Mora Rojas, boruca native, was a true headache for the Banana Company who for a long time refused to sell his lands to the transnational. It is known that upon his father’s death, Venancio relocated to his native Boruca (3.1) to “Palmar de los Indios”, today Palmar Norte (5.2), where he resided back in 1912. Later he crossed the Térraba river to the place called El Gorrión, in Palmar Sur. On his plot Venancio cultivated cocoa and banana, transported bananas in his canoe and later sold them to the transnational. Meanwhile, the Company was appropriating the fertile lands of las vegas (plains) of the Térraba river, from El Pozo (Ciudad Cortés) until reaching Venancio’s farm. There, next to El Gorrión, the company built a landing strip for what would become its center of operations in Palmar Sur (5.1). But it is said that “despite its efforts – the Company- could not persuade Mora to sell the  property; even more, the boruca resisted every attempt to  persuade him, showing contempt for the dollars offered.” And if that was not enough, it was said that next to the landing field was an imposing ceibo (kapok) tree, property of Venancio,  a real problem for  the  Company, endangering the maneuvers of those using the airport.

Video canción PALMAR SUR 
Autor: Mario Chacón 


On the banks of the Térraba

It was not until he was old and tired of facing the banana company that he finally decided to sell. He purchased lands by the banks of the Térraba at a place called Cañablancal, leaving El Gorrión for good and soon after he passed. There in Cañablancal, three kilometers from Palmar Norte, the former “Palmar de los Indios,” is where his descendants, doña Chanita and don Memito survive. And it is from there that the founders of Asentamiento Cañablancal INDER (5,5) descend, next to the archaeological site Batambal. The memory of Venancio Mora, his attitude and majestic ceiba tree, have become a symbol of indigenous resistance.  And this symbol is respectfully remembered today by the inhabitants of Osa. In the peoples’ ideology “Indio Venancio” has become a myth and legend. This history serves to remember the boruca presence in the history of Osa, that Palmar Norte was first “El Palmar de los Indios,” and still today there are borucas living in this canton. (Elaborated by JL Amador from texts by Claudio Barrantes, 2015 and Ana Luisa Cerdas, 1993).



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