Field Study and Service-Learning MediaBlog

10 February, 2007

Guatuso: Maleku Indigenous Reserve

Traditional Maleku Construction
Our Club Cabaña, half finished, but still a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the breeze, with two hammocks and mattresses for the afternoon siesta. We helped with a small portion of the
finishing touches of its construction. See next picture.

Assisting With Constructing a Traditional 'Rancho'
The Moreras are building the interior walls of the cabaña with cane, culminating in a simple yet exquisite result. This arduous process consists of first harvesting the cane, transporting it to the building site, measuring out each thin piece, cutting it to size, and finally, nailing it into place. We never knew how hard it was to nail round objects until this project, especially in a corner! This small triangular area took two of us about three hours to complete!

Claire Wingred Raking Leaves off a Trail
In our first project, we cleared the trails throughout the community´s demonstration forest. Most of their land is cleared for agriculture, but some of the remaining areas of forest are dedicated to education, conservation, and tourism. We walked about two kilometers from the center of the community, through La Finca Nica, which is a farm where we stopped to gather oranges for refreshments. This was where our leader, Alex, taught us about many different plants and trees the Maleku use for medicinal, housing, clothing, and aesthetic purposes.

Medicinal Plants of the Maleku
This plant is called Cora in Maleku, or Barija Negra in Spanish. This particular plant was found in the demonstration forest where we cleared trails. One can use the terminal bud to alleviate the affects of certain snakebites. When bitten take the bud and cover it in saliva, press it in to the bite, and wrap it in place. “¡No hay problema!” as Alex kept repeating. This is one example of how the Maleku put their faith in nature, sure that it will provide all of their needs.

The Maleku: A Cultural and Environmental Experience
The Morera family has been an initiating force in Tonjibe for about ten years now. "Tafa" Morera had a vision of preserving and reviving Maleku culture through Eco-Cultura, an organization committed to educating their community and others about their traditional ways. The Eco-Cultura provides an on-reserve income for the community beyond agriculture. It offers educational walks hikes through a forest, traditional ceremonial viewings, a unique cultural experience, with a large emphasis on art. All the art is made on the reserve by the creative Maleku people. The art includes wood carved masked, beautiful paintings full of color, drums made with wood and iguana skin, and necklaces made from seeds and wood. Tafa died nine months previous to our visit but his vision lives in his family and the community. They were truly unique, creative, open hearted, and passionate and proud of their culture. The people and culture were the reason our experience was so indescribable. Names: (top to bottom, left to right) Kelly, Ninica, Wendy, Angela, Claire, Wilson, Nicole, and the amazing Alex!

Author: Nicole Lynch