¡Hello, everyone! In this post I'll comment on a few things that Solivagant asked in the 2014 WHC Thread. Sorry for the delay in replying, I have had very busy weeks.
First of all, as you may see, I commented back about the candidacy, on march 3rd 2013, with an actualization on that may. Back then and knowing how hard the process of inscription is, I was worried that the candidacy could get at best a deferral, knowing the problems the country has traditionally faced (thankfully now not as much as before) for the preservation of its cultural heritage, especially management.
Costa Rica has sold itself as a natural destiny for over 40 years, but the conservation of cultural heritage (of any period) has lagged well behind until recently, causing the loss of most of our cultural built heritage. If you could see pictures of cities like San Jose, Heredia and Cartago...they had historic centers back before the 1950s, now...well, San José is an ugly patchwork city. Now the protection is much more rigurous and there is a trend to establish municipal and national regulations for those sites and buildings that are historical, but are not listed as heritage... this is the link to the Costa Rican Heritage Center
. Cases like Liberia, Limón, Santo Domingo de Heredia, Santa Cruz, Atenas and others are in development, before it's too late.
Back again to the stone sphere sites, I want to start pointing out a mistake that was made in one of the comments, the sites in Diquis Culture don't belong to Mesoamerica. As you may see in this map URL
back in precolumbian times, Costa Rica was divided into 3 cultural realms: the Gran Nicoya or Chorotega had a mesoamerican culture, even nahuatl was spoken there. Then there was the Central region, a transition zone, where sites like Guayabo, Ta' Lari, Las Mercedes or Cutris existed. And then Gran Diquís in the southeastern portion of the country, which had a culture that related to the Intermediate Region of the Americas, where the Chibchan civilization and others existed. Thus the obvious relation of Gran Diquis great stone and gold works to what can be seen in Tierradentro, San Agustin WH sites. To give a greater detail, in this other map can be seen the distribution of the cacicazgos (chiefdoms...a strange name for me) back in the times of the spanish conquest...URL
there were many subcultures for example in Gran Diquís: Turucaca, Quepóa, Coctos, Bruncas, etc. And as the spanish colonization progressed and then came the independence of the Culture, the Talamanca mountain range and the costa rican southeast were not conquered by the spaniards, thus permitting to remain several indigenous cultures in those areas of the country, as it is shown in this map of the present-day indigenous reserves URL
It was in the 1930s that the area was fully colonized for the purpose of banana and oil palm purposes, and it was then that the Diquis spheres sites were discovered. In the conquest some indigenous towns had been visited and described by the spanish conquistadores, even one of them, for the town of Coctu, makes one think of Batambal Site, because the conqueror talks about a town built on a hilltop for protection purposes, and surrounded by a palisade. However, nothing is mentioned about stone spheres until the 1930s. Either way, the spaniards were not particularly appreciative of indigenous heritage wherever they found it, so it's great indeed that they couldn't get to fully conquer the southeastern part of the country, with the exception of two indigenous towns, Boruca and Térraba.
In the early 20th century, Costa Rican culture was thought to be central-valley-based, "white" and european-infused, so not much attention was paid to indigenous cultures, except to decry them. Even in the 1890s one of the biggest cultural debates in the country was if it could be considered subject of art an indigenous woman or not, and the conclusion was...that not. But in the 1920s to 1940s began a revision of this racist concept, artists began to paint adobe houses, sculptors began to model sculptures after indigenous models (with great scandal, at first, the reason for the great sculptor Francisco Zuñiga to leave the country and go to Mexico, when the muralismo and indigenismo were the big thing in town) and musicologists began to go to Guanacaste province to capture the folklore of the area, to the point that it was considered for a long time the standard for costa rican folklore in general. So, at less in an intelectual-sense, it began to be appreciated the culture of some of our ancestors, and of other parts of the country.
So, in that context, the Diquís sphere sites were discovered, but in that time the big interest came from archaeologists from the USA, called in by the United Fruit Company. The National Museum back them trusted that the relics found in the country could be better protected by foreigners, and in museums overseas, than in Costa Rica. The Costa Rican government had no interest in protecting some far-away indigenous sites, and thus, with time, these were looted, the stone spheres and gold objets made the way to museums across the globe, and with the founding of the 2nd Republic in 1948, and the building of the Panamerican Highway, to institutions in San Jose, private houses and so on. It was up until the 1960s that the government became interested increasingly in sistematic archaeology, through the National Museum. But this was already late for most archaeological sites in all the cultural realms in the country.
And then in the last few years the interest in this sites has been leaking, from an academic-intelectual, public institution exercise, to the general public. Not just the sites of spheres of Gran Diquis (which Jiménez Deredia and media have popularized), or Guayabo (where there is even a campaign to create a new, universal design-trail to show some of the most recent discoveries), but even small sites like these, that depicts the first exchange of culture between the spaniards and the huetar chiefdom URL
in San Ramón de Alajuela.
This long introduction is just in purpose to set you a frame of why this candidacy is maybe as much a business of recognizing a heritage that once was decried, looted, vandalised as a business of promoting cultural tourism, and bigger development for the poorest area of the country, the Pacific Southeastern. And so, with the cultural diffussion the subject has had in the last years, not just in Costa Rica, but abroad, probably a historic debt is being paid. One that should have been paid in the 1930s, when most of the Gran Diquís sites were almost intact, but anyway important also for the area of the country that has the biggest percentage of people self-identified as indigenous and indigenous reserves. Perhaps in the future an effort will be also displayed for areas like the afro-caribbean culture, Guanacaste-mesoamerican infused culture, coffee and sugarcane heritage, victorian and metalic architecture, republican heritage and so on, as the declaration here by former minister Obregón states URL
. That would be great, maybe not each one WH gap fillers, but perhaps could have a chance.