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Boruca masks of Costa Rica bring indigenous awareness

February 23, 2021

On a rainy Saturday afternoon, a museum without borders manifested itself as a Boruca indigenous mask painting class behind the Parque Café in Barrio Escalante, San José. 

The Indigenous Museum of Costa Rica has existed in some form since 2015, organizing classes and exhibitions in spaces around Costa Rica. Saturday’s class was overseen by the museum’s director, Rebeca Gutierrez, and taught by indigenous artist Fernando Maroto.

Check out our favorite photos from the event: 

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As participants worked on their masks, Maroto walked from table to table, offering advice and explaining the reasons behind the use of certain colors when painting Boruca masks.

“The idea [behind the class] is to bring something of Boruca to the center of San José,” Gutierrez said. “It’s a good opportunity for people who wouldn’t necessarily have the chance to go to Boruca to experience it here in the city.”

Famous for their masks, the Boruca are an indigenous tribe, many of whom live on a reservation in the Talamanca Mountains.

In terms of their plans for the future, Gutierrez hopes to eventually found a brick and mortar museum, though she acknowledged that is probably further down the line.

In the meantime, the museum will continue its mission by using what it has.

“What we all want to feel is, in truth, the betterment of the indigenous communities,” she said. “We don’t want the situation to be that they just have their space in their reservations and no one is aware they’re out there.

“Well, they are there, and they have their traditions, and we want to keep their culture alive.”

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