San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Bribrí Language Not Lost in Caribbean Family’s Home

PUERTO VIEJO, Limón – The Bribrí language is making a stand in a dirt flooredhouse off the road to Sixaola, south of Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast.Petronela Valengana speaks Bribrí, Spanish is her second language, but her adolescentdaughters just began learning her mother tongue. Visitors can say “iss beshkeneh,” in greeting to her, if they don’t mind mangling her language.She and her family toast and grind cocoa they grow in an orchard near their homeand sell it to visitors. They also sell exotic fruits they grow in an orchard planted withimported seeds and make banana vinegar, cocoa butter for the skin or for cooking,and weave baskets and plates.A MORNING with the family is an authentic experience of their version of lifeon the Caribbean coast.“People don’t know how to appreciate the things they have,” she said. “they havelost the language.”Valengana has seen changes there since her childhood.”There were only a few Indians around here. Over there,” she said and gesturedtoward the jungle around her house. “And it was full of turtles and iguanas and allkinds of animals. Now it’s full of Gringos, hotels, restaurants and drugs.”

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