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Like most indigenous tribes the Maleku are permanently fighting for the preservation of its culture. The ritual dances continue to be taught and as always stories are told to the young boys by the elders about the tribes ancestors. In the villages the Tribes own language is spoken – Spanish is hardly heard.

The Maleku Indians comprises of approx. 800 members, who live on a government reservation, about 70 km from the Arenal volcano.

The Maleku explain to us the origins of the earth: “Our ancestors said that at the beginning Toca a large stone opened – from that stone came a person, he said you are the people Maleku. Toca also created a large bird, the Red Ara, the holy bird. He said this bird would represent the symbol of my creation, the Great Spirit in you.”

The Maleku are proud of their indigenous roots and strive to preserve and retain their inherited culture. Although they live very closely with other Costa Ricans of European extraction, they, unlike the tribes of the Bribri or Borukas in the more inaccessible mountains of the Talamanca region, succeed in the upholding of their traditions whilst living in the modern age.

In strong contradiction is the image of the villages, which are hardly typical, having been constructed over the last decades by the Costa Rican government for the members of this indigenous culture. They correspond in smallest detail to the traditional method of building. Thus the villages of the Maleku sometimes remind us of the all too well known impoverished city outskirts that can be seen throughout Latin America.

The reason why the Maleku hold so strongly to its language and culture is certainly its distinct pride and a warlike spirit. In Costa Rica, they are regarded as one of the more warlike indigenous peoples.

When one visits the villages of the Maleku, you notice the colourful and beautifully made drums and tribal costumes. In almost all houses their lives an artist and often it is the whole family that is involved in the production of the indigenous arts and crafts. Ritual animal figures as well as the jaguar decorate the costumes and other objects of the Maleku.

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