Saturday 25 September 2021

The tradition of natural fiber in Costa Rica

Fiber as a cultural patrimony. Sadly, in Costa Rica cabuya has been replaced by plastic and other synthetic materials.

Paying the bills

Latest

Canadian airlines will start flying back to Costa Rica on October 2

QCOSTARICA - Four Canadian airlines will resume their flights...

8-year-old boy dies abruptly of covid-19

QCOSTARICA - An eight-year-old boy who had no risk...

Vaccinations face unfounded fears over AstraZeneca dosages

QCOSTARICA - The goal of immunizing 500,000 people over...

There are potholes and then there are potholes!

QCOSTARICA - Imagine your vehicle being devoured by a...

Today’s Vehicle Restriction September 25: “EVEN” ending plates CANNOT circulate

QCOSTARICA - For today, Saturday, September 25, vehicles with...

Legislators to begin discussion on reducing the 2022 Marchamo this Monday

QCOSTARICA - The political fractions, except that of the...

No National Census in 2022!

QCOSTARICA - The Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos...
Paying the bills

Share

The 2018 Costa Rican National Prize for the Patrimony of Intangible Culture (Premio Nacional al Patrimonio Cultural Inmaterial Emilia Prieto) was awarded to Juan Olivado Camacho Leiva (aka Martina) for his work in preserving the traditional art of cabuya fiber.

 

78-year-old Don Martina weaving cabuya fiber

- Advertisement -

This is a craft that has all but vanished in Costa Rica.

Cabuya the plant is a member of the Agave family that supplies a sturdy durable fiber that can be woven into shopping bags, horse cinches, saddlebags, pocketbooks, etc. It makes a strong rope or twine (mecate) with many uses. Sadly, in Costa Rica cabuya has been replaced by plastic and other synthetic materials.

A cabuya plant cultivated by the collective

The craft of cabuya fiber is still very much alive in some nearby countries (e.g. Nicaragua). It is also common in Colombia where it is known as fique.

In Costa Rica, this traditional craft endures in San Isidro de El Guarco, Cartago—on the road leading south to Pérez Zeledón. There is a collective of artisans working to continue the tradition of cabuya and educate Costa Ricans about this natural fiber. The collective is called La Cabuya Cuenta (also written as La Cabuyacuenta), meaning Cabuya Matters.

 

- Advertisement -

Don Martina pulling cabuya leaves to remove the fiber

The cabuya plant supplies long—five feet or so—soft flat leaves. These leaves are pulled through a metal frame to strip the outer layer of the leaf from the fiber. The fiber comes out as fine threads, several feet long.

 

These threads are then washed and dried before being spun into thicker thread or cordage that can be woven into a variety of useful objects. Thread can also be dyed to achieve many lovely colors. This dyed thread or cordage can then be woven into decorative patterns.

- Advertisement -

 

A woven cabuya pocketbook

One of the things cabuya was used for was saddlebags—alforjas. The durable nature of cabuya makes it an excellent material for rough usage. Agricultural workers heading out for a day’s work would use alforjas to carry their lunch, water, and other supplies.

 

Saddlebags in Costa Rica did not require the ownership of a saddle or even a horse for that matter. The saddlebags were just slung over the shoulder, giving a good distribution of weight front and back.

La Cabuya Cuenta operates a store and demonstration center in San Isidro. There is a good assortment of beautiful useful items for sale—pocketbooks, baskets, large shopping bags, etc. It is a wonderful place to shop for an extra special gift.

I congratulate don Martina on winning this prestigious prize—it is entirely deserved.

- Advertisement -
Paying the bills
Jack Donnelly
Jack Donnelly is a writer, photographer, and speaker living in San Pablo de Heredia. His topics of interest include Costa Rican folk culture, national traditions, traditional cuisine, ecotourism, and wildlife. Donnelly is the author of COSTA RICA: Folk Culture, Traditions, and Cuisine which is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.

Related Articles

A woman is murdered every week in Costa Rica

QCOSTARICA - With only days before the completion of eight months...

Subscribe to our stories

To be updated with all the latest news, offers and special announcements.

Log In

Forgot password?

Forgot password?

Enter your account data and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Your password reset link appears to be invalid or expired.

Log in

Privacy Policy

Add to Collection

No Collections

Here you'll find all collections you've created before.