NINE-year-old Gina Cascante watched with wide eyes as President Abel Pacheco presented Costa Rica’s Law for Responsible Paternity and the Children’s and Adolescents’ Rights Code, translated into Bribrí, to Eunice Pita, a classmate from Cascante’s school in the southern Caribbean region of Talamanca.
Cascante, along with a group of school children from Talamanca’s indigenous Bribrí community, traveled to Casa Presidencial, in San José, Jan. 13 for a ceremony celebrating a Child Welfare Office (PANI) initiative to translate these texts into Bribrí.
PANI will distribute 1,000 copies of each of the translated texts to schools in Bribrí communities, where teachers will use them to inform children about their rights under the law, said Child Welfare Minister Rosalía Gil. What really enthused young Gina during her visit to Casa Presidencial were her plans to sing to the President after the ceremony.
“I want to sing to Abel Pacheco in Bribrí,” Cascante said. “I really like being here.”
THE Bribrí are one of Costa Rica’s eight indigenous groups, with approximately 11,000 inhabitants living primarily in the southern Caribbean and Pacific zones, according to the 2000 census. The census found a total of 63,876 indigenous people living in Costa Rica.
Recognizing Bribrí and other indigenous cultures as important parts of Costa Rica is one of the goals of the PANI translation project, Pacheco said.
“Today we take the first step by distributing a translation of the law into Bribrí as a way for every woman and child to have a clear understanding of the right to demand responsible parenthood,” Pacheco said. “This translation is a way of expressing respect and recognizing the validity of this culture that has its own language, world vision and identity.”
The President added that the two texts will also be translated into Costa Rica’s other seven indigenous languages: Brunca, Cabécar, Teribe, Guaymí, Huetar Chorotega and Maleku, but he did not provide a timeframe.
COSTA Rica’s Law for Responsible Paternity, ratified in 2001, and Code of Children’s and Adolescents’ Rights, ratified in 1990, spell out the rights guaranteed to all children under Costa Rican law, including the right to health, an education, a name and nationality, freedom from abuse and the right to know one’s parents.
Translating these texts is an initiative to promote awareness of the law among the Bribrí and achieve more equality in its application, Gil said. Two students at the University of Costa Rica’s School of Modern Languages, Rito Stewart and Alí Garcia, both of Bribrí descent, translated the texts from Spanish into Bribrí.
“In the past, not as much attention has been paid to children in these communities as in others,” Gil said. “The law is something everyone should have in their own language. Children should know they have a right to know their parents and a right to speak out against violence.”
Violence in the home is a problem not only in indigenous communities, but throughout Costa Rica, said Gil, who followed Pacheco’s speech by reading a simplified version of the texts in Spanish, illustrated with cartoon drawings, to the young audience.
She reiterated that every child has the right to live free from physical, sexual and emotional abuse and that children should watch out for and support each other.
LEADERS from other indigenous communities around the country also attended the ceremony, including Geyner Blanco, a representative of the National Indigenous Roundtable from Guatuso, a Maleku indigenous community in north central Costa Rica.
“This (the translation) seems like a very worthy effort to me for two reasons,” Blanco said. “It’s necessary for children to be able know their parents and also important to be able to have a document in an indigenous language.”
Although most of the country’s indigenous people today speak Spanish, Geyner added, it’s important that the government respect the native languages of these cultures. Cascante and her classmates from Talamanca received a bag of school supplies donated by the store Mundo de Juguetes, with contributions from the supplier Dixon Vinci, along with their copies of the texts.
Mundo de Juguetes also printed 1,000 copies of the texts, said Sales Manager Lidiana Salas.
“These texts have never been translated before – it’s a very important way to reach these indigenous communities,” she added.