San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Indigenous Ask Volunteers for Help

KABEGWA, an indigenous tribe association,is looking for a few good volunteersto help protect the iguana populationswhere the Maleku and Cabécare indigenoustribes live, since increasing iguanahunting has been damaging the populationof the species.The tribes traditionally hunt iguanas as afood source and they also use their leather tomake drums.“We’re trying to relieve some of thepressure that has been put on the iguanapopulation and to repair the damage thathas been done by so much iguana hunting,”said Orlando Fletes, who is workingwith the project on behalf of the Ministryof the Environment and Energy (MINAE).VOLUNTEERS can stay with a tribalfamily in Guatuzo, in north central CostaRica, for free (except the cost of food), forone week to three months while workingon the project.Iguana conservation is not the onlyendeavor available for volunteers. Otherefforts will be made for reforestation oftribal lands and identification and preservationof plants used in natural indigenousmedicine.Additionally, volunteers are needed tostudy and compile the oral traditionsof the tribes.The Ministry of Culturealong with MINAE pledgedsupport for the oral traditionproject in the form of the 2004Cultural Study Award, whichprovides ¢5,000 ($11.50) permonth from March-December,totaling $115.Ana Isabel Robles, who isin charge of indigenous mattersat the Ministry of Culture, said themoney probably won’t cover all the project’sexpenses, but it is meant to give ahelping hand.“MOST people who win this awardhave already been working on the projectfor a while and continue to work on it afterthe money has run out,” Robles said. “Ithink José (Morales, president ofKabegwa) started on this last year.”The end product will be a bilingualdocument, in both Maleku and Spanish,with oral stories of the tribe that have beentold throughout the centuries.To reach this goal, however,Kabegwa wants to bring involunteers from outside of thetribes.“In the past it has been afight for assimilation and weare trying to fight for conservation,”Morales said. “It’svery hard for other cultures tounderstand this, for that reasonwe are very interested inculture exchange.”AFTER all, the broader goal of theproject is to help advance the indigenouscultures without imposing Western or capitalisticways upon them, which Moralessays is what often happens when entiregroups from outside of the tribal culturecome in to help, as opposed to individualsworking with Kabegwa.“What our organization is trying to dois to not reflect a Western cultural development,rather to develop the values of theindigenous, their knowledge, spiritualityand their needs,” Morales said.“The Western way of advancement iseconomic growth and power while theindigenous way is the advancement ofknowledge. The two aren’t even comparable,”he added.For more info or to help, call Moralesat 368-5770.Costa Rica Featured in Travel and Leisure MagazineCOSTA Rica’s tourism industry has just received a virtual boost from Travel andLeisure magazine. The country was featured in the cover story in the June 2004 magazine,which said the country is expected to draw in 1.2 million visitors, a 20% increase from lastyear. The stylish travel magazine sent an associate editor and a travel and fashion photographerto roam the country and pull together a quick travel guide for would-be tourists.The magazine devoted 12 full pages of beautiful photos to the country, dividing it byregions with suggestions for upscale accommodations and restaurants as well as the typicalexcursions such as deep-sea fishing and canopy tours. The article is full of quick andsuccinct descriptions with “don’t miss” and “insider tips” for beaches, local food andcraft buying.

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