Indigenous Costa Rica – Chorotega

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In Costa Rica, on the Nicoya Peninsula, there lies a small little town by the name of Guaitil. Despite the size, this town has quite a bit of significance to it. In it lies an ancient art, passed down through generations. It’s the art of pottery, and their method dates back to before Christopher Columbus arrived on the shores of Central America.

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It’s the Chorotega style. But what is Chorotega? It’s the name of the indigenous peoples that inhabited the Nicoya Peninsula and most of the Guanacaste province long before the country of Costa Rica existed. The name of the peninsula, “Nicoya”, was the chief who was in power when the Spanish arrived.

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The main point of going to Guaitil is to admire and buy some pottery. The village itself looks like almost any other in Costa Rica, with some scattered houses and a big church. When you walk into the pottery shops, you’ll of course be greeted by the owner to show you around. They’ll most likely speak only Spanish, which only adds to the experience of being there. No, unfortunately they won’t speak Mangue, their ancient language.

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You’ll be immersed. They won’t be able to explain anything to you in English but you’ll be able to figure out that everything is totally natural, made from the Earth. And the pottery is remarkably durable. The designs are those of monkeys, toucans, other exotic birds, lizards, frogs, and others you’d expect from an ancient Central American culture.

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Head over to the Mono Congo Loco for some pottery lessons! You’ll be treated with an authentic lesson in spinning pots and painting them too. Not to mention, other pottery, including some really interesting designs that almost look Mayan. That just adds to how interesting and exotic it all is.

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This is my fellow teacher Kyle getting a pottery lesson – in Spanish, of course!

Guaitil is a short trip from Santa Cruz in Guanacaste. You can get there by bus for less than a dollar which leaves about 3 times per day, and only once on Sundays. If you miss it, you can grab a taxi for ten bucks each way, easier if you split it with a friend. The drive along the way is 18 minutes through authentic Costa Rica. The village itself is away from the city but if you need help getting back, ask the owner of Mono Congo Loco. His name is Miguel, he’s really nice, and his nephew “Junior” is a taxi driver. They’re extremely nice people. Don’t forget to buy some pottery, too!

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