Teribe Indigenous Cultural Association TÉRRABA
Many believed that the Térraba of Costa Rice had lost the Teribe language because only a few elders still speak it. However, in Panama, there is a group of approximately 3,000 Teribe. There, all ages speak the language on a daily basis. Through the combined efforts of both groups, the Térraba of Costa Rica are rebuilding their knowledge of the language. Some Térraba in Costa Rica have married Teribe from Panama, and these resettled community members also help reinvigorate the language.
Having their own language is a critical part of recovering and maintaining their identity in the face of adversity. With that in mind, the community has been deliberate in its reintroduction of its teaching and has brought a teacher from the Teribe tribe in Panama to the Térraba schools. Eventually, the language will be entirely recovered through this process.
The Térraba are a spiritual community with a strong relationship to the Earth. They are protectors of nature, and have fought for hundreds of years to pass on their traditions and legends through the generations. Surviving the Spanish Conquest, the Térraba are proud to have maintained their language and many of their traditions and customs.
Although no one knows for certain the origins of the perfectly symmetrical ancient spheres that are found in the indigenous territories, natives have shared stories through the generations. Legend suggests that the stones were fashioned by their ancestors hundreds of years ago, perhaps with the help of aliens. Although the Spanish took many of the stones during their conquests, several spheres remain intact and in their original location.
Térraba legend says: Many years ago when stones were soft, unlike today, a priest was traveling from the sea to Talamanca. After a long day of traveling, he decided to take a break, and had his assistant untack his pack mule and allowed him to graze. The priest rested overnight and sent the assistant to retrieve the mule in the morning. After searching for the mule, the assistant finally found its head beside a sleeping tiger nearby. The priest had faith in God and blamed the tiger for his misfortune. The priest demanded the tiger carry his pack to Talamanca in the place of the mule. As a punishment for his actions, the priest required the tiger place his paw on the rock to leave a lifelong reminder of his mistake. After leaving the mark with his paw, the tiger carried the priest’s belongings to Talamanca.
during year-end celebrations from December 24 to January 2. The whole town comes together to share in traditional food and drink, and to watch or participate in the game. Each player wears a mask fashioned into an animal of his or her choice. One person wears the mask of a mule; another, a bull. The mule’s job is to get rid of the bull and defend the players. The game is an opportunity for the community to come together and celebrate their history of fighting to maintain their culture.
Agriculture is an important part of the story of Térraba. Through agriculture, they sustain themselves without dependence on outside sources. The Térraba prepare many traditional dishes daily from the crops that they harvest themselves. The fertile lands near the Térraba River allow the cultivation of a variety of fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants.
The staple food in the Térraba diet include rice, beans, plantains, yucca and cacao. Dishes include many variations of other fruits and vegetables found on their farms. Several local farmers keep livestock and milk cows daily. Families consume some of the milk, while the rest is kept to make cheese and sour cream. Rice is a common dish that can be prepared with any meal. It is also used in the traditional dessert, bien me sabe. Térraba also serve thick, handmade corn tortillas with a variety of dishes.
Click on an item below to see how it is prepared.
Click for photos of traditional food of Térraba.
Traditional crafts and art traditions are passed down through the generations. The pieces are crafted by homemade tools out of fallen wood, jicara or seeds. Art can be a powerful means of sharing the Térraba’s spirituality with the world. Many of the works have cultural and historical significance, depicting elves, mystical figures from legends and the mingling of animals and nature.
The plants are also grown for medicine. Women have been passing the knowledge about traditional medicine down through the generations for as long as the Térraba have existed. Many of the plants have different functions. They are used in teas, mixed into ointments or made into soaps to heal the body.
While the community understands and believes in western medicine and modern birth control, they have maintained that they can stay healthier by first using traditional remedies. Despite many years of repression and disbelief, local hospitals now support traditional medicine, and call upon the town’s elders when modern medicine cannot solve a problem. Doctors have been surprised by the positive results, but the Térraba are pleased that their traditions are valued.