Students from the Interactive Media program at Elon University in North Carolina have created a new website to share information about Costa Rica’s Térraba indigenous group, who live in Buenos Aires de Puntarenas in the southern part of the country.
Seven students and two professors spent a week living in the Térraba community, gathering information, learning about the culture, history and challenges residents face, and taking photos and video. They returned to the United States to put it all together at www.terraba.org, which was launched Jan. 24.
“It was a wonderful experience. We didn’t know what we were getting into, but they opened up their homes to us and had different activities for us to do every day to learn more about the culture,” participating student Dioni Wise said.
According to Wise, each student received a different task, including photographer, videographer, project manager, writer and researcher, graphic designer, web builder and librarian.
“The job they did was of very high quality and very important for us. It is the first time someone did something like this here in the Térraba community,” said Jerhy Rivera, vice president of the Asociación Cultural Indígena Teribe (Teribe Indigenous Culture Association).
“The most important thing for us is to inform the world about the touristic potential our town has, and about our values and natural resources,” added Rivera, who worked as a guide for the group while they lived in the community.
Rivera said he has received several calls from people in Costa Rica and abroad telling him how much they like the site.
The website is divided into six sections that provide readers information about the location, community structure, language, economy, religion and food of the Térraba, who are also known as Teribe. The history section has an overview and a timeline that shows the group’s background.
The culture page offers photo slideshows, videos and interactive information about sacred sites, language, traditions, farming and food, art and medicinal plants. The tourism section has information about attractions including rafting, rappelling and hiking and accommodations, including a new guesthouse built recently with a donation from the United Nations.
The challenges page highlights an ongoing community problem caused by the Costa Rican government’s decision to build a $2 billion hydroelectric dam in the area. The project would displace residents of a community that has been there for more than 500 years. Opponents also say it would destroy indigenous land and greatly affect local biodiversity.
The Térraba people have had issues with land-rights management since they were granted title to part of their traditional territory in 1956.
The Costa Rican Electricity Institute is developing the Diquís Hydroelectric Project, which would create a 27-square-mile lake that would flood 10 percent of Térraba-titled land.
In addition to land struggles, the Térraba also have been fighting for their right to influence their local school system. Residents say they want an education system that respects their cultural belief system.
“We want people to visit the Térraba indigenous community. We want people to support the defense of the river, the defense of natural resources,” Rivera said. “We invite everyone to come to Térraba to see all beauty we have: rivers, medicinal plants, waterfalls, caves. The students from Elon University made this site during a key moment for our community, to show the world what we have.”