Most of us are familiar with New Year’s Eve as a great festivity: surrounded by family and friends, indulging in delicious meals, drinks, enjoying the music and company of loved ones. But is it the same elsewhere? Have you ever wondered how this moment is lived by members of a different culture?
At the southwest of Costa Rica, a very unique, century-old celebration still survives. The Boruca people, one of the remaining indigenous groups of Costa Rica, are direct descendants of the natives who inhabited this territory by the time the Europeans first landed their ships at these coasts.
The cultural clash that occurred during the conquest period was ruthless, and the natives stood a fierce resistance against the conquistadores. The struggle to maintain their culture and ways is represented by the annual, end-of-the-year celebration “the dance of the little devils”. The celebration takes place in Boruca, from December 30th until January 2nd.
This is a major celebration. Basically all other activities in the village get put aside during the 3 days of the festival. It consists of a gathering of almost everyone in the community into a big circle in the center where the dance takes place. This is no ordinary dance though, it’s more like a theatrical play. There are very well defined characters, motifs, and careful timing for the events that unravel a whole story behind the dance.
The bull is a symbolic representation of the Spaniards, it chases around all the “little devils” that represent the Boruca people. Of course, the little devils with their wit always manage to trick and dodge the bull. They all wear elaborate colorful masks, the main artistic expression of this event and ethnic group. The “little devils”, as the Europeans regarded the natives, are guided by a few elders who direct the pace of the ceremony and actions of the group.
Live music and a constant flow of Chicha, an alcoholic beverage made out of maize, are essential fuels to keep the event going for 3 whole days. Drums, flutes, rattles, and guitars set the mood and rhythm for the different stages of the performance. It will all culminate in the slaughtering of the bull by the triumphant natives. The significance of this is the prevailing of indigenous ways, over the westernized culture that threatens to bury their traditions into oblivion.
At Lapa Rios, this year for the first time we had the wonderful opportunity of sharing this cultural experience with our guests, who were able to meet genuine Boruca people, taste the real chicha, learn about our indigenous cultures and witness a sample of the dance of the devils!