Costa Rica’s indigenous people inhabited the region for more than 10,000 years before the 17th century Spanish explorers arrived in the Cordillera de Talamanca mountain range.

Cloaked by rainforests that occupy the southeast half of Costa Rica and the far west of Panama, the area encompasses the highest peaks of Costa Rica and Panama as well as being globally important as a center of endemism for many plant and animal groups. It is a vital habitat for many large mammals (Baird’s tapir, puma, jaguar) and birds that are now threatened in much of their range.

Deep within in those forests the indigenous Cabécar people inhabit the remote Talamanca region of eastern Costa Rica.

After the Spanish arrived, it wasn’t long before they began grouping the Cabécar, the Bribri and more than a half dozen other aboriginal groups across the region under the collective name of Talamanca. The Spanish also tried to introduce the concept of towns in an attempt to control the local populations – an effort that largely failed. Even now, the independent Cabécar do not live is structured villages, but rather prefer individual family groups. The dwellings are often scattered miles apart.

Today, with a population of about 17,000, the Cabécar make up the largest of the country’s eight major indigenous groups. Their territory extends northwest from the Río Coen to the Río Reventazón. Many settlements are now protected inside reserves established by Costa Rican law in 1976 to safeguard these ancestral homelands.

The reserves also exhibit ecological diversity, including vast swaths of tropical rainforest covering steep escarpments and large river valleys where many Cabécar still employ traditional subsistence livelihoods and cultural practices.

The Cabécar are thought to be the most isolated of Costa Rica’s indigenous groups. They have been forced into ever more isolated pockets, even into the Chirripo Mountains. Yet, they have clung to their traditions and preserve their culture. They speak mostly their own language rather than Spanish.

It’s hard to believe that with all the hustle and noise in the world, it is still possible to encounter such a unique and rare culture. You have that opportunity on during our nine-day Costa Rica Authentic exploration.


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