Azur Indian Music Project

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San Jose, San Jose, Costa Rica
Welcome to our music for development space where we will try to keep our friends updated on Azur Indian's latests. We also hope to engage actively with other musicians and anyone who is interested in development issues in general to hopefully reach higher grounds. So please, post your comments and share your thoughts with us! Azur Indian(アズール・インディアン)のブログへようこそ!このページでは私たちの活動をご紹介していくほか、音楽に興味がある方、国際協力・開発に興味がある方との交流の場を作っていければと考えています。みなさんの思いやコメントをこの場でぜひ共有してください!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Costa Rica 4: General Information about Indigenous Issues

The general understanding of indigenous people in Costa Rica in the pre-colonial time, the most of the population belonged to Chibchan language family (Fonseca and Cooke as sited in RefWorld, 2008), such as Huetar, Cabacar and Bri Bri. It is suggested by the recent linguistic and genetic data that the occupation of Chibchan language family had lasted at least for ten thousand years. Because invasion of Mexican natives who were Nahuat-speaking to the northern Pacific region did not start until 900 BCE (RefWorld, 2008,

New diseases were brought by the Spain in 16th century when colonisation started that killed many indigenous population. Not only diseases, but also a system of slavery and mistreatment made indigenous population decreased on a big scale. This resulted for those people in moving into mountains in the southern part of the country: Talamanca region. Current indigenous population such as Cabecar and Boruca mainly live in Talamanca still and its number is estimated approximately 70,000 by the indigenous NGOs and 30,000 by the ILO. Its population consists of one per cent of the county and the total amount of Indian reserves are twenty two, and there are eight Indian groups. Mostly Maleku, Guaymi, Cabacar and Bri Bri are spoken.
In terms of Afro Costa Ricans, the first group was taken by the Spanish colonists as slaves from African continent, and then these population synthesised with local people. The second tide arrived around 1890s as Caribbean migrant workers who contributed to construct the railway and work in the banana plantation. Current Afro Costa Ricans mainly inhabit in province of Limon on the Caribbean coast and its population comprises with two per cent of the total population of Costa Rica. In 1949, Afro-Costa Ricans obtained full citizenship, while it was only early 1990s for many indigenous people. Afro Costa Ricans and the indigenous people have been always marginalised in spite of forward-moving policy making regarding minorities.
Indigenous movement in Costa Rica has warmed up relatively recent in the 1980s by the activated Minority and Indigenous NGOs. According to NGOs survey, yet 73 percent of indigenous people in the country live in distant areas where health, education, electricity and water services are lacking. Only 27 percent of the population is benefiting adequate housing (RefWorld, 2008).
In accordance with Convention ILO 169, the Legislative Assembly started working on a draft act that wiould directly influence on renew version of Indigenous Act. To do so, the draft committee consulted indigenous leaders in order to insert their voice into the draft which consists of fifty-one articles. The committee also planned to replace the name of the reservations as territories, since the used term means isolation. Despite these efforts, the process of legislation delayed, and in 2008, there was a complaint made by the indigenous group in province of Puntarenas in regard to the lacking consultation for the plans of the El Diquis hydro-electric project in the traditional territory due to the possibility of flood (RefWorld, 2008,

Costa Rica 3: Brief History

In Pre-Colombian era, present domain of Costa Rica was between Mesoamerican and Andean civilisation and that let the domain be "Intermediate Area". In the sixteenth century, Spanish conquerors arrived, and they first influenced the central and southern part of the current Costa Rican domain. At that time, a large number of indigenous people died from diseases that did not exist in Latin America. Therefore, indigenous culture is influencing modern culture of today's Costa Rica on a small scale.

In 1502, Christopher Columbus reached the eastern coast of Costa Rica and then it became to be colonised by Spain. Followed by conquerors, Spanish settlers came and remained there. Costa Rica became part of the Captaincy General of Guatemala, under the viceroyalty of New Spain. Gradually, Costa Rica became isolated and poor in the Spanish Empire because of Spanish law which prohibits trade with its southern neighbour Panama. In addition to that the land of Costa Rica was poor in natural resources such as gold and silver; therefore, indigenous population that was forced to be labour small compared with other Latin American countries. This situation let Costa Rica rather autonomous and individualistic society.
     Costa Rica became independent from Spanish Empire in 1821 with other Central American countries, and became a part of the Federal Republic of Central America. In spite of newly independent provinces within Federation, border disputes soon broke out. Costa Rica was not an exception, she faced a dispute with Nicaragua over northern Guanacaste Province.
     In terms of economy, Costa Rica shifted to produce coffee to obtain benefits from selling it to Europe. Until Panama Canal was opened, it had a critical problem of transportation; however by construction of the Canal, it made it possible to open a better trade route.

In 1856, an American filibuster, William Walker who first landed in Nicaragua and proclaimed as a president of Nicaragua invaded the territory of Costa Rica that let both countries be into a war. After all, Costa Rica let by the president and Commander of Chief of the Army of Costa Rica successfully pushed Nicaragua let by Walker to the border: Rivas, Nicaragua.
In 1889, the first free and honest election was executed that contributed for maintaining peaceful democracy for a while. In spite of experiencing continuous disputes and violence taking place in Central America, Costa Rica still maintained relatively peaceful era, the only exceptions were the era of Federico Tinoco Granados in 1917-19 and the era of José Figueres Ferrer in 1948. In terms of José Figueres Ferrer, he conducted 44-day Civil War and that resulted in 2,000 casualties. After 44-day, Figueres group drafted a constitution specifying free election with universal suffrage and the abolition of the military that made Figueres a national hero. Later he won a presidential election in 1953. He contributed to the country to be famous on non-armed country worldwide still now.
In the current era, Costa Rica relies on two economic pillars: technology and eco-tourism. Such internationally famous companies as Microsoft, Motorola or Inter have operations in the country, and local companies produce computer related products and software. In terms of tourism, it is said that the income from this sector will contribute a big portion of her GDP quite soon since Costa Rica has a enormous capacity on this industry. Besides, the permanent stability of the country also influences and encourage travelers to decided Costa Rica for their destination. Aside from above two pillars, traditional agriculture dealing with coffee and bananas in particular, is consistently contributes county's income to export those products.

Costa Rica 2: Religion

According to a national survey conducted by University of Costa Rica in 2007, 75.5 percent of the population define themselves as Roman Catholics (44.9 percent are practicing, 25.6 percent are non-practicing), apart from it, Evangelical Protestant are 13.8 percent, Non-Religious are 11.3 percent.

"Catholic, Apostolic, and Romanic Religion is the official religion of the Republic"; it is specified in the Article 75 of the Costa Rican Constitution. On the other hand, the country also respects freedom of religion that is written in the same article. Since Catholic is recognised as a state religion by the constitution, it has a strong influence on politics and economy (University of Costa Rica, 2007,

Aside from the dominant influence of Catholic church, Costa Rica also holds Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopal, Baptist and some other Protestant groups as well as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-day Adventists. Regarding non Christian religion, there are Judaism, Islam, Taoism, Hare Krishna, Scientology, Tenrikyo as well as animism believed by indigenous people (University of Costa Rica, 2007,

(Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles, in Cartago in November 2010)

Costa Rica 1: Language, Culture and Music

Costa Rica's primary language is Spanish. Aside from it, indigenous people speak their own languages such as "Bribri", "Maléku", "Cabécar" and Ngäbere languages. Some indigenous languages have several thousands speakers while others such as "Teribe" and "Boruca" have hundreds. Jamaican Patois of Creole-English is spoken in the Caribbean coast (Native Languages of the Americas website, 1998, 
Costa rica's culture is basically influenced by Spain and recent years by United States. The most typical and the most frequently used Costa Rican word could be "pura vida (pure life)". It was first used after the release of a Mexican movie titled "pura vida" , it is now widely used for greetings and farewell. This word best shows the spirit of Costa Ricans in presenting a "philosophy of strong community, perseverance, resilience in overcoming difficulties with good spirits, enjoying life slowly, and celebrating good fortune of magnitudes small and large alike" (National Motto, 1996,
Regarding Costa Rican folk music, since Caribbean side has African descendent population, it also influences strongly on music. Likewise other part of Central America, marimba is popular and widely used in their traditional music. Pre-Colombian era also has an effect on traditional music in terms of "rare music scales", "certain ceremonial songs" and "ocarinas". In the Guanacaste region is the origin of these music. Ocarina is an ancient traditional instrument, and recent years, accordions and guitars are getting more used (Wikipedia, 2011). African influenced music is found in Atlantic coast. (

 (Beautiful Quetzal in El Mirador de Quetzales in February 2011)

Internship 2: The target indigenous reserve "Quitirrisi"

My research area is the Quitirrisi reserve in Canton de Mora. 

I belong to el Cantonal Centre de Cultura de Mora (CCC) to do this research and internship since it is located in the same canton as the Quitirrisi reserve and the organisation includes indigenous culture and music in their project as well.
As the map below shows, there are 22 indigenous reserves in Costa Rica. And the reserve Quitirrisi is located near the capital San Jose (see No. 3). 

(From Horizontes Nature Tour Costa Rica

The name of the reserve: Quitirrisi
The name of the target group: Huetar   
Main Industry: Handicrafts with local plants.
Language: Spanish.
Land: 2,000 hectares in Canton de Mora, San José Province, central region was given in  1976.
People: mostly Huetar people together with other immigrants (also in neaby big city Puriscal). 400 children and young people, going to local-only school, foodball in mud land.
-Unemployment due to no industry around there. 
-Poor land to cultivate as well. 
-Many people migrate to the city to have stable life. Aside from that, many people travel to San Jose to work. 
-To maintain an oral history and pass the traditions of their indigenous ancestors to the new generations.
-Lands are not well constructed, for example landlides occurred in 2010.
Key People: community leaders and teachers in the community working hard to educate the children of Quitirrisí to respect and preserve their cultural traditions.

Quitirrisí is a rural community located in Canton de Mora, San José Province, central region. Its name comes from two well-known trees in the area; Quitirrí, that blooms once a year in the mountains of this community, and Risi, equally common in the local flora.

In this region, 1,500 different groups settled with various socio-cultural features, some are farmers and others are recognised as the descendants of indigenous or native peoples. Especially the huetares, one of the indigenous groups established in the region long before the arrival and the process of conquest by Spain.

Quitirrisí is legally recognized by the Costa Rican government as an indigenous territory, where a group of people claiming that their origin is Huetar. The main and their traditional industry is making handicrafts with local plants. The indigenous language was left to speak for two centuries, the result of the process of Western domination; particularly, the Spanish conquest, which used a variety of mechanisms to disrupt and fragment the world of Huetar culture.

Today, it is recognised that the effort of some of its inhabitants reclaiming the roots of their culture as Huetar; obviously, it seeks for coexistance with patterns and elements of Western society in Costa Rica. In some mountains, plants and animals keep names linked to the Huetar language still such as names of ancient chieftains.      

1976 is remembered as a turning point because the indigenous territory was created by the government. It was then the territory of 2,000 hectares was assigned to the people of this cultural group. But the land was actually deforested and eroded.

Although this area has been exclusively for use of indigenous peoples, it is also inhabited by immigrants from other regions of central Mexico. Especially in the canton of Mora and Puriscal, those immigrants have a strong presence in central rural culture of Costa Rica. Regarding the minority population, it is estimated that about 400 children and young people that live in this community, scattered in different neighborhoods distant from each other. They congregate especially near "local-only" school. For school-age population, they practice football in a "mud pasture".

Quitirrisí is a humble community but the large number of population are facing being poor, since there is no opportunities for being employed in the area. The poor condition of the land prevents from having sustainable agricultural for those people. A little care with the social policies conducted by the government could offer real alternatives for local growth. The current situation unless it changes, a high instability for the people will last and at the end that promotes those people to migrate to the city or at least commute every day to work from distant and unstable area of indigenous people.

Internship 1. The aim of the internship.

As some of last entries mentioned, I am currently working on indigenous music for the awareness of their human rights through music.

In many countries, similar trend is occurring especially when young generations are moving out from their own village to urban areas to look for better life opportunities. In this process, traditional music is not just loosing the ones who inherit and convey to generations to enerations, moreover disrespecting their own culture because people tend to admire urbanised" rather than their own traditional one without thinking. 
As known, music is not the only subject that this phenomena is affecting, but development in general encompasses the same tendency because this term "development" is believed to be free marketisation and urbanisation. There, problem of "framing" is located, we all are blindly perceiving these elements as criteria of development; however, marketisation and urbanisation cannot be the only solutions; particularly for those of who were born in remote areas where it has a fascinating cultural heritage. They do not always have to sacrifice their culture in the name of "development" if there is a way to change the mindset of current trends in terms of development and to realise encouraging and empowering with what already exists such as traditional culture often found in remote areas. That can also be the means of development. 
Another problem can be found where minority's human rights are marginalised by the majority in the name of development. To tackle this issue, many county legislated law regarding protection of indigenous people; thus, repossessing tangible heritage such as regaining their traditional domains which were taken by majorities are being completed little by litte. However, the protection of intangible cultural heritage is not widely observed and is not often treated equally as other aspects.  
In this light, there needs to be implemented the system for minorities to protect intangible cultural heritage not to be victimised by the current trend of development as in marketisation, urbanisation as well as human rights issues. My internship will focus on establishing the system mentioned above through promoting "intangible cultural heritage"of indigenous group of people. 
In order to work towards the given issues, following can be focal points;  
1. To foster mindset of respecting indigenous people's culture as a right to possess and to nurture in order not to be marginalised;
2. To find the way to raise indigenous people's income;
3. To encourage younger generations to easily inherit and convey to next generations;
4. To diffuse information and situation it domestically and internationally to further expand
    respect for their human rights.