- Posted January 15, 2014 by
Puntarenas, Costa Rica
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Impact Your World
Costa Rican tribe gets help to tell its story
Costa Rica’s Térraba tribe has been fighting cultural extinction for years. Now, the world is taking notice and investing in their survival.
The United Nations sustainable tourism program’s latest funding has meant the development of new lodging options. A German government program has placed two community development volunteers for a full year to teach English and help with other projects. And a team from Elon University returned for a second year to build a website to promote new tourist activities.
The Térraba are hoping to preserve their culture by opening their doors to tourists.
The tribe describes life in the Costa Rican wilderness as a close spiritual connection to the nature that surrounds them: finding foods and medicines in the plants and deep connections to the waters and animals that crisscross their reserve in the southern part of the country.
Amanda Sturgill, a faculty member at Elon University, is in the third year of a partnership between the school and Costa Rican indigenous groups. She says tourism for the Térraba holds a two-fold purpose. First, it allows the indigenous tribe to share their unique culture with the world so that people can learn to respect it. Secondly, it brings in additional income to groups like the Térraba, which is desperately needed as they move away from self-sustaining agriculture.
“Paying for electricity and school tuition and uniforms and other modern conveniences is expensive, so groups have to participate in the market economy,” Sturgill said.
For the adventurous visitors, the Térraba lead activities such as hiking and tours to hidden waterfalls. Tourists can learn about the Térraba way of life by participating in roasting and grinding cacao beans on ancient metate stones to make chocolate. Visitors can also help cook traditional meals or create jewelry from native seeds they pick. For nature lovers, breathtaking Costa Rican mountain views accompany opportunities to see a wide variety of birds and mammals.
But most important to the Térraba is the chance for visitors to hear their story and why their lands and beliefs are so special to them.
"Tourists can hear us talk about our culture and our history and the realities of life in the tribe," tribe member Jerhy Rivera Rivera, who is leading the tourism promotion efforts, said.
Sturgill’s group of students is enrolled in the graduate program in interactive media. They spent a week with the tribe collecting stories, photos and videos. Their site about the Térraba’s tourism efforts will be live for viewing at tourterraba.com on January 28th. For more information on Térraba culture, visit terraba.org.