"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in
its net of wonder forever."—Jacques Cousteau

February 5, 2019

Boruca Indian Masks

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta
I haven't found shopping to be much of an activity in Costa Rica...it's hard to find nice little shops that have true Costa Rican made items. You can find all the touristy things with Costa Rica or Pura Vida on them, but finding nice things is a little more challenging. Last year I had read about the Diablo or Boruca Mask, but didn't have a change to buy one. This year we were in the area where the indigenous people live who make these beautiful masks. Diablo masks reflect the Costa Rican rainforest and are made by the Borucan Indians that still have a village in southwest Costa Rica, just east and a little further south than Uvita.

The masks originated during the Spanish Conquest. Villagers learned the Spanish were afraid of the devil, so in an attempt to protect their village, they wore “diablo” (devil) masks. They failed to chase the Spanish away, but were able to save their village and retain their own culture. Today, the Boruca artisans carve and paint three types of masks...the diablo, the ecologico, which represents a stern-faced shaman surrounded by the flora and fauna found in the wilderness around Boruca and the combinado, which combines both the diablo and the ecologico. The masks were originally carved out of cedar, but are now carved out of balsa wood, because it's a fast-growing native tree. It goes from seedling to harvestable in three years; each tree can yield as many as 30 masks.  

The village of Boruca has a current population of 1,500-2,000 people, who live on the indigenous reservation. Sixty percent of the residents make their living as artisans of these masks and other textiles. They give tours of their village and workshops, but we didn't have time to go this year. It'll definitely be on my list of things to do on another visit to Costa Rica.

Traditional Diablo Masks
Combinado Masks
Ecologico Masks
These were some of the masks for sale on the beach in Dominical
Here are the ones I bought to hang on Texas Pearl
This video shows how the masks are made and painted.

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