Lessons from Indigenous Communities in Limón Province
As PCV Crystal closes her four years of service with Peace Corps Costa Rica, she takes a moment to reflect on her unique experiences living and working in an indigenous community and lessons she hopes to bring home with her as she heads back stateside.
After four years with Peace Corps Costa Rica, I am reflective about living and working in Indigenous communities of Limón Province. As a Youth Development Volunteer for my first two years, I was living and working in Bribri Indigenous Territory. The last two years, I have continued to live in the Southern Caribbean as Regional Leader, supporting PCVs throughout the region in Indigenous communities and collaborating with regional counterparts throughout the Indigenous territories of the province (Bribri & Kabekar).
What touches me most about these communities is their ceremonial and sacred approach to daily life, seen in many aspects of the society. I will share three primary examples of how this is manifested: through visits, connection to community and connection to nature.
In Bribri culture, an unannounced visit to someone's home is welcomed with open arms. You are offered something to drink, and often a meal with a bag of tropical fruits to take when the visit has ended. They may or may not converse with your during the visit, but the sheer act that you went to their house is tremendously valued. They will feel a deeper connection with you from then on.
Another essential aspect to indigenous culture is the way they interact with society. The way you greet fellow people on the bus or boat, to the exchanges you have in passing on the street, are representative of the cultural values. It is always important to acknowledge those around you, as a sign of respect. Additionally, the trade system is used, with a constant attitude that “God will provide” and endless generosity.
Finally, you will find sustainability and connection to nature manifested organically throughout communities and in people's homes. Traditional abodes are made of all natural materials tied together, not requiring a single nail to hold them together. Natural medicines, remedies, and tropical fruits are abundant.
Like all societies, there are always challenges. Of course, nothing is perfect, and it has been an honor learning about both the beauties and challenges of indigenous communities of Limón Province. Indigenous community members have demonstrated a level of mindfulness that is truly connected to a higher power. The humility and glow in the eyes of the people are a seed of hope for humanity and greatly inspires me to be a better person.