The art of Borucan weaving has been passed down from generation to generation for centuries. Mothers and/or grandmothers teach their daughters the traditional techiniques of this craft. For the village women, weaving is a ritual part of everyday life and is done in-between chores.For several hundreds of years, they have been weaving on back strap looms to provide their clothing and blankets for their beds (hammocks). The textiles created on this type of loom cannot be made very long or wide because the loom is tied around the waist of the weaver, while the other end is secured to a post or tree. This primitive equipment produces a narrow 18 to 22 inch fabric about the width of their bodies. Therefore, it may take two or three months to create a bedspread or blanket that must be first woven in pieces and then sewn together.
The patterns seen on all woven products are not kept in written record, but are handed down over the years. Every textile made by each indigenous artist is unique and is a product of traditions born deep within the history of the Boruca Indians of Costa Rica. Today in the
village school, cotton gathering and hand spinning of the yarn is taught in the second grade. In the third grade, the dyes and dying process are introduced and the fourth graders are given weaving instructions. The Borucans begin by gathering cotton grown on their land. Then they spin it into yarn by hand, which is a tedious process. Next the yarn is naturally dyed, and woven on the looms. Hense, it takes several days of work, for the final product.
Not all the members perform all the steps in the process, but they all weave. There are not
many sewing machines in the village, so just a few of the women sew the woven
goods into the purses, backpacks and tote bags. Weaving literally binds women
to their land, as well as their culture. The weaver is an integral part of the loom, connected
to her environment and at one with nature. A Borucan ritual today, every January most of the village weavers travel by bus to the Pacific Coast beaches of Piñuela and Ventana to collect the secretion of the Murex sea snails, which they use as one of their natural dyes, a process dating back to 200 B.C. See the tab 'Tyrian Purple' for more information about this ancient
process, and the tab 'Only Natural Dyes'.
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Weaving, a dying art in Boruca.
The times, they are a changing! Grandmothers passed on the art of weaving, spinning and dyeing the yarn to their daughters. This was all very time consuming, but was considered a basic daily chore in their households. The dyeing of the yarns involved collecting various natural items such as leaves, barks and roots. Fires were built to heat large pots containing water to boil the dyeing materials. It took many hours with much stirring. Then the wet yarns were removed to an area to dry. After spinning the yarn, which is hard on the hands, the weaving begins. Beating the weft into the warp for a tight weave uses a lot of back and shoulder muscles. Did anyone complain? It was all part of daily life in the village. Until the opening of the Pan American highway in the 1960’s, Boruca was always self-sufficient. Only recently in the last few decades things began to change. The children are learning of different life styles, more modern and easier. Young adults are now schooling for more years, going to university and learning other trades to earn money. Clothing is now bought in stores making spinning, dyeing and weaving a dying art. Hardly anyone wants to physically work as hard as grandma! In the 20 years Boruca Gallery Gift Shop has been selling the beautiful handcrafted woven items, each year less and less are being produced. So, it saddens me that now is the time to get that handwoven item while they are still being produced, who knows how many years this tradition will live!!
The Borucan’s, are very proud to have survived the struggles between the native tribes and Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s with their village and sense of identity intact. While many indigenous tribes consider themselves to have been defeated by the Spanish, Boruca demonstrates that a tribe cannot be defeated if its culture is still alive today. Boruca is very much alive and fighting to preserve their identity.
Don Ismael, one of the elders, was the only living person to ever have been declared a 'cultural patron of the country'. In the early 70s, he revived mask carving, as it was a dying art. Don (an esteemed title similar to ‘sir’) Ismael devoted his
life to keeping the cultural heritage of their ancestors alive and also developing a means to generate income for the community.
Boruca is built on faith in the wisdom of elders and the Borucan legends they tell, passed down for centuries. The identity of Boruca reflects a deep respect for the stories told, the nature that surrounds them, and the community they share. Thru their crafts, daily life in Boruca is focused on cultural preservation.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CALL:
SUSAN ATKINSON (ENGLISH)..011-506-22005428 (COSTA RICA)
OR.... MARINA LAZARO (SPANISH)..011-506-87808648 (BORUCA DE COSTA RICA)