The Bribri people are indigenous to Costa Rica. They live in the mountains along the Caribbean Coast in Talamanca. Some Bribri are also situated in the neighbouring country Panama.The tribe lives in small communities of single family houses spread over the farmland. The tribe likes living close to each other, but not necessarily right next to each other. They speak the Bribri language and Spanish.
The Bribri people have a very interesting culture. Cacao, for example, has a special meaning to them. They see cacao trees as women that Sibú (God) turned into a tree. Because of this, only women are allowed to prepare and serve cacao. Cacao branches will never be used as firewood, as it is seen as sacred.
The Bribri people earn their money by selling bananas and cacao beans to large companies. However, they don’t earn a lot of money from it. One kilogram of the cacao beans, that make high-quality chocolate, sells for only 90 cents. Because this alone didn’t provide enough money for for example education and health care, a lot of the younger men started leaving the tribe to go to the bigger cities and work there. Around 20 years ago, the Bribri women came up with the idea to allow tourists to visit their tribe. The elderly men in particular were first very sceptical about this. The tourism project allows small numbers of visitors every day to experience their everyday lifestyle. Around 40 families take turns to host the visitors, cook meals for them and talk about their rich culture. This tribe is actually an excellent example of sustainable tourism. The money earned from tourism has helped the younger generation to stay at the village as they see the economic benefits that tourism brings. Besides that, a lot of the money from tourism has been invested in a local school, proper infrastructure and healthcare. In the future, the tribe is planning to invest money to build a university and accomodation for tourists to stay the night.
There are several non-profit organisations that help the Bribri tribe. El Puente, for example, offers educational assistance, food and micro-loans. With their organisation they want to help families and individuals to become self-sufficient. Another interesting organisation is Surf For Life. They sponsor high-impact sustainable tourism projects in underserved communities, like the Bribri. Lastly, The Tropical Adventures Foundation, helps the Bribri create sustainable income for their communities while preserving their language and culture. They have various opportunities for volunteers to help.
For more information about these non-profit organisations, check out the following websites:
If you are interested in visiting this tribe in the future, please check out ATEC (Asociación Talamanqueña de Ecoturismo y Conservación) for sustainable tours in this village via the following link. If you want to see an interesting vlog about visiting this tribe with ATEC, check out Bean Exploring on Youtube or click here to see the vlog.