The ‘Huetares’, an indigenous ethnic group inhabiting what is now…


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The Huetares were the most important community in what is now central Costa Rica in the 16th century, being the main population when the European conquerors arrived. Its name derives from ‘Huetara’, the term with which theSpaniardsrecognized the chief of Pacaca (today Tabarcia, east of Santiago de Puriscal), so they attributed this name to all the inhabitants of this region.

A small Hunter group was able to
survive to the present day, consisting of about 1000 individuals. They are
located at the top of the Quitirrisí Indigenous Reserve, on the road between
the canton of Mora and that of Puriscal. There is another Huetar colony in
Zapatón, in the canton of Puriscal, both in the province of San José. There are
also scattered families in the Cerrito de Quepos area and surrounding areas
places. These communities have lost their original language, but still retain
some of their traditional beliefs, crafts, cuisine and medicine.


The first chronicles about the Huetares date back to the 16th century and already at that time the first demographic data of them were provided by Perafán de Rivera according to Quesada (1996), who concluded that there were approximately 11,500 Huetar natives in 1569. At that time in the Central Valley the cacicazgos (chiefs) were Garabito, Pacaca, Aserrí, Curridabát and Guarco and all formed two larger units called Señorios (mansions),
In the north of Costa Rican territory, near the plain ofSan Carlos River , was another cacicazgo group called the Votos. The available information indicates that their houses were distributed near the San Juan River, some distance apart, at the mouth of the San Carlos, and that they were inhabited by the chiefs and their families, who communicated quickly between them by paths or there, the displacements were made in canoes on the rivers.

It is mentioned, according to several
studies, that the Votos were later absorbed by the Huetares during the colonial era,
while others remained within the current Maleku group.

The geographical extent of the huetares.

It has not been determined exactly what
the indigenous peoples of Costa Rica should be considered strictly as Huetares. The
The Huetar language seems to have been spoken or at least understand most
communities that inhabited the Costa Rican territory belonging to the cultural heritage
space known as the intermediate zone, particularly in the central valley and the
Virilla and Grande de Tárcoles river basins to the Pacific coast.

As common characteristics of these
communities, it is worth mentioning relatively dispersed settlement patterns;
agriculture based on corn, beans and other crops; great refinement in
handicrafts of stone objects (metates, sculptures, tables, and ceremonial objects
altars, etc.), absence of cannibalism, etc.
unity between them, and rather there seems to have been a great variety of relations,
ranging from subordination and alliance to enmity and war. Some of the main
The Huetar kingdoms seem to have been those of King Garabito, on the Pacific side;
the Kingdom of Pacaca, and the vast domains of Kings Guarco and Correque,
which stretched from the banks of the Virilla River to Chirripó.

Life and customs.

Its main economic activity was
sow tubers, such as cassava and the pejibaye palm. Of the latter, they
transformed the chicha, with which they got drunk during religious ceremonies and
from whose trunk they made bows and arrows. Other cultures they have developed,
though minor, were corn and cocoa. The development of trade was based on barter.
They supplemented agriculture with hunting, practiced with bows and
arrows, blowguns, traps, rings of fire, etc., as well as fishing made with
nets, with hands, with arrows, etc. The usual fabric they used in their
dresses was made from Guarco.

North of Costa Rica
territory, near the plain of the San Carlos river, was the cacicazgo of the
Votos whose colonies communicated quickly with each other by paths or
using the sound produced by the bark of a tree which the conquerors called
‘master’. In this regard, Doris Stone indicates that “men
wore loincloths and short waistcoats, and women’s petticoats that came to the knees,
but wore cotton clothes on special occasions”. The chief had
authority, obtained in the hereditary form. Its social organization was divided
into three groups: the upper class, formed by the chief and his family, as well as
as well as by priests and sukias or sorcerers, the bourgeoisie constituted by the
ordinary people, and finally the slaves, who occupied the lowest stratum of the
society. War conflicts were a common practice. Among their customs was to kill
the prisoners and cut off their heads, which they held as a trophy. Even the women
went to war and aided their men either by throwing spears and clubs or by
throwing stones at opponents.

The Huetares worshiped the Sun and the
Moon. To this end, they built altars and mounds of stone. Also, they worshiped the
bones of their ancestors. They buried the remains of the deceased with
various objects that belonged to him in life and his slaves, sacrificed for
this reason, because they were intended to be useful in the next life. Human
sacrifice was commonly practiced in funerary or religious activities. They
chose a group of people, who were led to the altar, where they would be
sacrificed. In 1527, Fernández Oviedo wrote about this: They take a woman or a man
…and take her up the hill and open them from the side and take their
heart, and the first blood would be sacrificed to the sun. And then they
decapitate this person with four or five others on a stone… and throw
the bodies down to roll…where they were collected, then eaten by the
holy men as a very precious delicacy.

As a curious fact, it should be mentioned that they stood out for their handicrafts in stone, among which they made elongated plates with human figures on top, squatting figures, warriors who held axes and stone heads. trophy-shaped, pyramid-shaped stones with inscriptions and designs.


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