Costa Rica is one of the most homogenous countries in Latin America, if we speak about the variety of races that inhabit its territory. When the Spaniards first came (late XVI century), they didn't find the great empires as they did in Mexico or Peru. They found several tribes that were very diverse and with interesting cultural differences. Since Costa Rica is a natural land bridge between North and South America, Tribes show the cultural influence from either area, and sometimes you may witness in their potery combination of techniques used in the south and the northern parts of America.
Actually only about 1.6% of Costa Rica's population are native inhabitants. At the last survey, they counted around 64,000 of which 40% live in the province of Limón. Bri Bri's from Talamanca, are the largest tribe with a population of over 11,000. There are 22 Indigenous Reserves populated by Bri Bri, Cabécares, Borucas, Guayami, Huetares, Malekus(San Carlos Area), Chorotegas(Guanacaste) and Térrabas.
The residents of the town of Guaitil, located in Santa Cruz and San Vicente de Nicoya (towns with more than 5,000 years of traditions in pottery) make beautiful works out of clay and extracted raw materials using the same traditional and ancestral techniques of the Chorotega indigenous groups. Some of the pieces produced include Big bowls, ornaments, flowerpots, vases, plates and ceramic whistles. Very special Clay ovens are used to fire these exquisite ceramic pieces. Souvenirs may be purchased in the two communities, where pottery sales make up the main source of livelihood for their residents. This tradition has been handed down from generation to generation; Also this techniques are taught to students at Guaitil’s primary school, who produce beautiful pieces to be sold to local and foreign visitors.
The archeological term "Chorotega" is used to refer to a society that emigrated from Mexico to northern Costa Rica after 800 C.E, and which elaborated local art with Mesoamerican symbolism. The people from this area commonly refer to their work as "Chorotega folk art." The contemporary Chorotega ceramics have evolved over the past decades as individual artisans show their own sense of beauty in their work, learn from the innovations of others, and discern the preferences of tourists and collectors. "Chorotega Revival" describes the contemporary ceramics as an art form that is based on an ancient Indian tradition, but that is renewed according to current individual, communal and market demands.
Genres & Folk Terms : Chorotega Revival is a term used for a wide array of compositions and decorations that the artisans use with influences from the past and present. The following are the recognized ceramic types by the potters of San Vicente that fit within the general Chorotega Revival Folk Art Movement.
1. Replicas, based on a precolombian model with iconography from Mesoamerica,
2. Chorotega Motifs" refer to ceramics and their designs that mix-and-match different archeological vessel types or use ancient iconography on ceramic shapes of the artisans' own invention. Right after the clay hardens, another artisan will paint and engrave its designs around the neck in a style that derives from the decoration found on yet another pre-Hispanic vessel type.
3. Traditional Ceramics" were the norm when pottery was mostly produced for household use, but they continue to be manufactured today for a smaller market of collectors interested in simpler designs.
But even traditional ceramics have been modified by market demands; for example, tourists often cannot transport a full-sized tinaja(Bowl), and because the purchased ceramics are not intended for practical usage, they often buy a miniature version instead. In other cases, super-sized tinajas serve as architectural decorations in homes, restaurants and hotels in different areas of Guanacaste and Costa Rica.
When a Costa Rican mention Guaitil and its ceramic you may see that he feels proud of the beautiful art work that the Chorotegas of today are able to produce.