Life & Leisure

Ngöbe Buglé Indigenous people use tourism to promote and preserve their culture

Douglas Marin

Coto Brus (Costa Rica), Aug 30 (EFE). – A traditional ritual of smoke and purified water allows visitors into the forest and homes of the Ngöbe-Buglé in southern Costa Rica, as the indigenous community begins to see tourism as a way to showcase and preserve their culture, while also generating income.

Nearly 3,200 Ngöbe-Buglé Indigenous people live in about 10 communities in the Coto Brus canton of the Puntarenas province in southern Costa Rica.

One of their purposes as a community is to keep their customs and traditions alive including their language, colorful clothing, crafts, food, songs and dances.


The hummingbird, the smallest bird in the world and of which there are many species in the Costa Rican forests, is an important part of the cosmic vision of the Ngöbe-Buglé.

For them, it was sent by God with a drop of water in its beak that, when it fell to the ground, led to the birth of life and the forest.

Kira Bejarano, an Indigenous woman from the community of La Casona, is a teacher at the public education center, but also one of the leaders of a family business called Ju Mölöchi (the Hummingbird’s House), where tourists receive an explanation of the local culture.

“We want to transmit cultural knowledge, ancestral knowledge, which, as we know, is being lost or underestimated. It is a form of cultural rescue, of harmony with nature and of conservation,” Bejarano told EFE.

“We want to make ourselves known and we want to share an experience instead of commercializing our culture,” she added.

The woman explained that children are included in the initiative so that they appreciate the importance of their cultural roots and also as a way to preserve their language and customs.

The Ngöbe-Buglé Indigenous people stretch from the Panamanian province of Chiriquí to the Costa Rican provinces of Puntarenas (south) and Limón (Caribbean), and have a long history of mobility between territories that predates the current international borders.

Although communities have been established in Costa Rica for decades, indigenous migration between Costa Rica and Panama continues, especially during the agricultural harvest season, mainly for crops such as coffee.


Language preservation is one of the goals that the indigenous communities have set for themselves.

To this end, they have received support from the Ministry of Public Education of Costa Rica, which has appointed teachers in the local educational centers to teach the two Indigenous languages: Ngöbe and Buglé.

In the Ngöbe-Buglé towns of Costa Rica, Indigenous people continue to make and use traditional clothing and other tools that identify them. Children and teenagers learn from their grandparents the traditions and the language, which is considered a fundamental part of the wealth of the community.

The activities that they have developed for visitors include a gastronomic offer based on local organic products such as rice, vegetables and fruits, walks in the forest, observation of flora and fauna, accomodations in the town and traditional handicraft workshops.

Celestino Palacios, one of the sons of the late cacique and founder of the community of Pedro Bejarano, lives in a house that belongs to the community of Ngöbe Buglé La Casona.

At the entrance, a huge stone carved with a face honoring the cacique welcomes visitors to a room where Palacios sings in his native language, explaining that he is one of the few who still does so.

Related Articles

Back to top button