Boruca Tribe Members Visit Jaco’s Tico Pod


Emily Easton very much in her element at Tico Pod Art House & Gifts

The indigenous Costa Rican Boruca people are artisans known for their traditional masks, weaving and other handmade objects. Tribe members live in a self-sustaining agricultural village located deep in the Talamanca mountains. They support themselves mostly through their esteemed artwork and ecotourism.

Recently, some members of the tribe visited Tico Pod Art House & Gifts in Playa Jaco. Two Boruca women and two men diligently demonstrated the techniques used in weaving, natural fabric dying and mask-making. As the local hub for art in the Jaco community, Tico Pod was the perfect venue for the event. Emily Easton, assistant to the shop`s owner, facilitated the demonstration. She shared some insights into the culture and highlights of the weekend visit.

The Costa Rica Team:   How many Boruca women came to demonstrate weaving and natural fabric dying techniques?

Emily:  Two women, Marina & her daughter Adriana. Marina represents several artists including her son and in a way is like a spokesperson for the tribe. She travels all over the country selling Boruca items to their distributors.

The Costa Rica Team:  What kind of material is used for the weaving and what is woven?

The Costa Rica Team

Marina expresses her talent and experience of weaving

Emily:  The Boruca people cultivate and harvest their own cotton. They then process the cotton into fine yarn by hand. During the demonstration they described a lot of the steps of the weaving.

Some women dedicate themselves only to making yarn, which seems like very tedious work on the fingers. Next, they dye the cotton yarn using all natural leaves or berries. Then, they use a back-strap loom to tightly weave their beautifully natural dyed yarn into different color combinations and patterns.

The Costa Rica Team:  What are some of the plants and vegetables used to create the different dye colors?

Emily:  Turturic is used for yellow, Achiote is used for orange, Teak leaves are used to make red & purple (The younger leaves giving off one color, and the more mature leaves make another color.) They use a tree they calle “Azul de Mata” for the blue dye which is a very strong and surprisingly dark blue color.

The Costa Rica Team:  What three words would you use to characterize the Boruca women? the men?

Emily:  The women as modest, caretakers and warriors. The men are strong, humble and serious, although they did warm up over the weekend. 

The Costa Rica Team

Boruca women work with plants to make natural dyes.

The Costa Rica Team:  What impressed you the most about the culture/behavior?

Emily:  I like that most of Boruca tribe choose to honor their culture by staying among their people. Even though there is so much technology and chaos out there, they still choose to stand in their old traditions and as a result,  carry on their culture for the generations to come.

The Costa Rica TeamWhere does the wood come from that is used for the masks?  Is the paint all natural?

Emily:  The wood is all native to Costa Rica. They use mostly balsa and sometimes cedar. The cedar is harder to carve and, as a result, those masks tend to be more expensive. The paint they use is acrylic.

The Costa Rica Team supports community events that promote cultural art

Jose of the Boruca tribe painting with detail and diligence

The Costa Rica Team:   Does a portion of each sale go toward helping the Boruca tribe?

The masks are all purchased directly from the Boruca Tribe. Usually we deal with the one family that Stewart (the owner) has been working with for years. Marina brings masks from several different artists. The weaving tends to be a community collective effort. We have definitely seen a difference in their quality of life since Stewart has been purchasing from them. Where there was once no power, they now have electricity. Where there was once a dirt floor, there is now rough cement.


A special thank you to Emily for her time and help with this article. Thank you to the Boruca tribe members that willingly participated in last week´s demonstration to share an integral part of their culture. The movement to bring more cultural and art related events to the community of Jaco increases appreciation of the diversity found within Costa Rica.

If you are a member of the Jaco community or just visiting, be sure to stop by the Tico Pod Art House & Gifts. You will find a diverse selection of art produced by both local and national artisans.  The shop offers weekly painting classes taught by the talented Delphine Raveau. You can find a wide selection of hand painted Boruca masks which showcase the talent of Costa Rica’s indigenous Boruca Tribe.