Boruca Masks are a Real Collector’s Item
The most authentic souvenir a traveler can bring back from Costa Rica is a Boruca mask.
These incredible wood-carved masks are handmade by an indigenous Costa Rican tribe located in the Talamanca mountain range. The Boruca village is a three-hour drive southeast of our Dominical vacation villas. Don’t worry, though, if you don’t have time to drive all the way out to the reservation, there are a few shops near Dominical that sell legitimate Boruca masks. You can even get a thorough history of the ancient Borocu people at Finca 6 Museum. It’s a beautiful 45-minute drive south of our vacation homes, in the town of Ojochal, Costa Rica.
Community, nature, and storytelling are essential aspects of the Boruca culture. Their proud history is one of longtime resistance to Spanish control and self-preservation. These incredible stories of tribal survival are illuminated through Boruca crafts, language, legends, food, and customs.
From a tourism perspective, the Boruca is most well-known for their masks and the Dance of the Devils (Baile de los Diablos); a popular and highly-attended festival that takes place for a few days starting on December 30 of each year. Dance of the Devils will typically draw thousands of spectators over the course of four days.
Boruca masks pop on just about any wall. When you see one, you’ll know it. The masks’ colors are vibrant, and the intricate details are done with expert craftsmanship. They do come in different sizes, with the standard-size mask running about 2 feet tall and a foot wide. For a mask of this size, expect to pay anywhere from $100-$150 depending on a) your negotiating skills, b) how bad you actually want the item and c) how bad they want to sell the item.
Although they come in many styles and sizes, there are, essentially, two types of Boruca masks: Diablo and Ecological.
Diablo masks are supposed to be scary and sinister. These masks represent the actual views of the Spanish conquerors; literally what the Spanish would be seeing as they battle the Boruca. You’re supposed to fear this mask.
On the other hand, ecological masks incorporate more nature and animal designs. A design might be a jaguar head with toucans for ears, a butterfly for the nose and sharp, pointy teeth, something like that.
If you pick up a Boruca mask or two, make sure to have them packed really well. Like all handmade objects, they can be a bit fragile in some areas. Packing the mask in bubble wrap and a box and bringing it as a carry-on item isn’t such a bad idea for airplane travel. Contact us directly at [email protected] and we’ll let you know exactly where the best local places to shop for Boruca masks are during your stay. The shopping locations do change from time to time.