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First Costa Rica Woman Cacique Officially Appointed

For the first time in the ancestral indigenous lineage of the territory of Alto Comte Burica the official appointment of a woman Ngäbe-Buglé cacique took place. This historic event occurred on the rainy afternoon of Saturday, April 23rd at the Progreso Community Center, located between the cantons of Corredores and Golfito in the Southern Zone of Costa Rica.

Idalia Andrade Degracia will now lead the cacique at the age of 36, continuing with her family’s tradition and above all, validating her proven leadership capacity, as well as the legacy of her father, Don Miguel Andrade, the previous cacique, who passed away two years ago. Her brothers agreed to support her decision and are confident in her abilities.

Besides being a Cacique, she is also an outstanding entrepreneur, a single mother of four children, a primary and secondary school teacher, as well as a teacher of the Ngäbe-Buglé language (popularly known as Guaymí).

Now, as part of her appointment as a cacique, she must preserve the customs, the continuity of the language, gastronomy and the tradition for the new generations. She must also fight for the rights and protection of her people, in collaboration with the Association for the Integral Development of Alto Comte.

Her chieftainship had the approval and ratification of the majority of the National Council of Caciques and Indigenous Leaders of Costa Rica, modifying a patriarchal and traditional paradigm of the community and of the other five Ngäbe-Buglé settlements, as well as the other seven ethnic groups distributed in 24 territories throughout the country, with an estimated population of 110,000 indigenous Costa Ricans.

“My heart is filled with joy with respect to my ancestors, lineage and roots, because I have the responsibility to carry the flag that my father bore, this afternoon I felt his presence. This appointment makes me living history by being the first woman cacique. I will try to be a better daughter, sister, mother, cousin and now cacique” expressed Idalia Andrade upon receiving the historic appointment.

Alberto Chaverri, president of the Indigenous Environmental Foundation (FUNDEICO) stated that “this day is historic for the empowerment of women and shows recognition to a leader, entrepreneurial and extraordinary woman; in addition, she has been given the place she deserves by the National Council of Caciques and we are sure she will do a great job for her community.”

Alberto Lopez, General Manager of the Costa Rican Institute of Tourism (ICT) said he was proud to participate in this unique celebration, a tangible example of women’s leadership. “From the ICT we would like to extend a warm congratulations to Idalia Andrade, the first woman cacique of our country,” concluded Lopez.

The most emotional moment, which moved the new Cacique to tears, was when they placed on her head a feathered headdress worn by her father. This had been a gift from a cultural exchange with a Canadian indigenous population. Andrade wore it proudly, as she danced to pay tribute to her father. Finally, a plaque was unveiled in honor and remembrance of this historical milestone.

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