San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Day of the Aborigine Commemorated

NEW homes, schools and clinics have improved the quality of life of Costa Rica’s indigenous population in the last two years, Vice-President Lineth Saborío told an audience at the Casa Presidencial Monday during an event to commemorate Day of the Aborigine.

Various government institutions have built 497 new homes and brought improved services to more than 1,500 indigenous families since the administration of President Abel Pacheco took office in May 2002, Saborío said.

“They have given us much more support than other (administrations) before,” agreed Carlos Chaverri, president of The Foundation for the Social and Cultural Development of Ethnic Indigenous Costa Ricans (FUNDEICO). “For many years, we were abandoned by other governments, and now they are doing something.”

“But there is still so much to do,” he added. “We are lacking in so many areas.”

Numbering nearly 64,000 people, Costa Rica’s indigenous community represents 1.7% of the total population, according to the latest National Census.

This population consists of members of eight different ethnic groups: Bribrís, Cabécares, Guaymíes, Teribes, Brunca Borucas, Malekus or Guatusos, Huetares and Chorotegas.

A new pain clinic and soon-to-be completed delivery room in Hone Creek, north of the southern Caribbean beach town of Puerto Viejo, will serve 12,000 indigenous people, according to the Casa Presidencial.

Two basic community health clinics also have been installed at the Chirripó reservation, helping raise the level of health coverage among the area’s indigenous population to 76%, according to authorities.

This year, 15 new schools have been opened in indigenous-populated areas, representing half of all the new schools opened in 2004, according to the Ministry of Public Education.

But while Chaverri says he is pleased with these steps, he feels academic development should be taken to the university level.

“We need to create more opportunities for professionalism,” he said. “We need to see more indigenous doctors, congressional deputies, dentists… We have been abandoned for too long.”

Although education, health and economic welfare are serious concerns for Costa Rica’s indigenous population, the most serious problem threatening the community is the loss of their culture, Chaverri said. Outside customs and drug use threaten their traditions, he said.


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