Sunday, February 10, 2013

An indigenous experience: The Térraba

Its been almost a month since we arrived back in the United States after our week long adventure in Costa Rica.  Along with a team of six peers, I traveled to Térraba, Costa Rica to document an indigenous community currently involved in a struggle against the government.  Prior to our arrival, we knew little about the population.  I had originally believed that there was nothing that Google couldn't tell you, but it met its match.  My role as the writer included researching the community and educating our group on anything I could find.

That was a short meeting.

What we arrived to find, however, was a vibrant agricultural community filled with intelligent and educated group fully aware of the implications of their government's apathy and indifference.  

The Costa Rican government is currently in the planning stages of a multi billion dollar hydro electric dam, also known as Proyecto Hidroelectrico Diquis, that would flood 7,500 hectares in the Brunca region of Costa Rica.  The dam, placed along the Térraba River, would not only flood the group's native lands, but would bring 3,500 outsiders to a community of 600.  There is no way they could resist that and continue to maintain their culture. The United Nations has gotten involved, and has stated 

There has been no consultation with or participation by the Térraba in relation to the Diquis dam, which has been granted the ‘highest priority status’ with regard to obtaining environmental and other permits by the Office of the President.  This is the case despite many requests for participation and even large protest marches organised by the Térraba to highlight their exclusion from decision making. -UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
As the writer, it was my job to get to know these people, find out who they were and find a way to communicate it with the world.  Anyone who knows me or has traveled with me knows how deeply I dive into immersion experiences.  I spent as much time as I could talking to different members of the community and conducting interviews.  It took me a little while to get into the swing of things but the Rivera family made us feel at ease and at home. 

Highlights included me saving the day by riding in on a white stallion, dance lessons and chicha.  

The Térraba website that we built launched on January 24th and has had 3,000+ unique viewers and 12,000+ page views from 65+ countries.  Pieces of our story were picked up by NPR and Vagabondish, although the articles failed to mention our team by name.  Several tourist groups have decided to include Terraba as a destination, and the town will receive their first visitors next week, thanks to the website. 

Marshall Beringer, Rachell Carroll, Ashley Deese, Ruth Eckles, 
Alex Register, Kelsey Sullivan, and Dioni Wise