Teribe Indigenous Cultural Association



Hidden away in the small town of Las Bolas, there are several large rocks shaped in perfect, symmetrical spheres. There are many theories as to how the rocks arrived to their current locations and how they became perfect circles. The Térraba find energy and strength in their mystery.


The symbol of Madre Tjer is carved into a rock at the base of one of the local tributaries. It represents the relationship that the Térraba maintain with the Earth. The Térraba have a deeply spiritual relationship with the land and, especially, water. Water maintains life, and allows them to cultivate nature for their survival.


Tucked away near Bijagual is a lagoon entrenched in Térraba legend. It is a place both sacred and feared, and many stories about its mystical properties have been passed down through the generations. The lagoon is home to a wide variety of wildlife.


The Tiger's Paw is a large stone near the top of one of the local mountains revered by the people of Térraba. The large mark in the shape of a feline paw print reminds the Térraba to have strength and to keep fighting for their rights and beliefs.


Many believed that the Térraba of Costa Rice had lost the Teribe language because only a few elders still speak it. However, in Panama, there is a group of approximately 3,000 Teribe. There, all ages speak the language on a daily basis. Through the combined efforts of both groups, the Térraba of Costa Rica are rebuilding their knowledge of the language. Some Térraba in Costa Rica have married Teribe from Panama, and these resettled community members also help reinvigorate the language.

Having their own language is a critical part of recovering and maintaining their identity in the face of adversity. With that in mind, the community has been deliberate in its reintroduction of its teaching and has brought a teacher from the Teribe tribe in Panama to the Térraba schools. Eventually, the language will be entirely recovered through this process.


The Térraba are a spiritual community with a strong relationship to the Earth. They are protectors of nature, and have fought for hundreds of years to pass on their traditions and legends through the generations. Surviving the Spanish Conquest, the Térraba are proud to have maintained their language and many of their traditions and customs.


Although no one knows for certain the origins of the perfectly symmetrical ancient spheres that are found in the indigenous territories, natives have shared stories through the generations. Legend suggests that the stones were fashioned by their ancestors hundreds of years ago, perhaps with the help of aliens. Although the Spanish took many of the stones during their conquests, several spheres remain intact and in their original location.


Térraba legend says: Many years ago when stones were soft, unlike today, a priest was traveling from the sea to Talamanca. After a long day of traveling, he decided to take a break, and had his assistant untack his pack mule and allowed him to graze. The priest rested overnight and sent the assistant to retrieve the mule in the morning. After searching for the mule, the assistant finally found its head beside a sleeping tiger nearby. The priest had faith in God and blamed the tiger for his misfortune. The priest demanded the tiger carry his pack to Talamanca in the place of the mule. As a punishment for his actions, the priest required the tiger place his paw on the rock to leave a lifelong reminder of his mistake. After leaving the mark with his paw, the tiger carried the priest’s belongings to Talamanca.


The Térraba play their traditional game of the Bull and the Mule

during year-end celebrations from December 24 to January 2. The whole town comes together to share in traditional food and drink, and to watch or participate in the game. Each player wears a mask fashioned into an animal of his or her choice. One person wears the mask of a mule; another, a bull. The mule’s job is to get rid of the bull and defend the players. The game is an opportunity for the community to come together and celebrate their history of fighting to maintain their culture.


Agriculture is an important part of the story of Térraba. Through agriculture, they sustain themselves without dependence on outside sources. The Térraba prepare many traditional dishes daily from the crops that they harvest themselves. The fertile lands near the Térraba River allow the cultivation of a variety of fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants.

  • Yucca leaves are picked when they’re young and tender for this delicious Costa Rican vegetable dish. The greens need to be cooked shortly after picking to avoid toughness.

  • Digna Rivera Navas selects leaves from the yucca tree across the street from her home.

  • Banana leaves make a perfect carrying basket.

  • In order to harvest the root of the yucca plant, Digna Rivera Navas grasps the tree trunk from the base and pulls it out of the ground.

  • Digna Rivera Navas shakes the loose earth from the yucca roots and breaks them off from the tree.

  • One yucca tree creates a nice little pile of roots for lunch.

  • Digna Rivera Navas grasps the tree trunk from the base and pulls it out of the ground.

  • Yucca roots are cleaned and peeled.

  • The yucca roots are boiled until soft.

  • The yucca leaves are ready to be washed.

  • Digna Rivera Navas rinses the yucca leaves.

  • The yucca leaves are placed in a pot with about 2 cups of water and boiled.

  • The yucca leaves are boiled until tender.

  • The yucca leaves are drained.

  • The yucca leaves are finely chopped.

  • Finely chopped onion and herbs in oil are sautéed. When the onions are translucent, add 6 eggs and scramble.

  • The chopped greens are added to the onions and eggs.

  • Delicious!

  • Yucca roots are served warm.

The staple food in the Térraba diet include rice, beans, plantains, yucca and cacao. Dishes include many variations of other fruits and vegetables found on their farms. Several local farmers keep livestock and milk cows daily. Families consume some of the milk, while the rest is kept to make cheese and sour cream. Rice is a common dish that can be prepared with any meal. It is also used in the traditional dessert, bien me sabe. Térraba also serve thick, handmade corn tortillas with a variety of dishes.

Click on an item below to see how it is prepared.

Bien me sabe

Click for photos of traditional food of Térraba.


Traditional crafts and art traditions are passed down through the generations. The pieces are crafted by homemade tools out of fallen wood, jicara or seeds. Art can be a powerful means of sharing the Térraba’s spirituality with the world. Many of the works have cultural and historical significance, depicting elves, mystical figures from legends and the mingling of animals and nature.


The plants are also grown for medicine. Women have been passing the knowledge about traditional medicine down through the generations for as long as the Térraba have existed. Many of the plants have different functions. They are used in teas, mixed into ointments or made into soaps to heal the body.

While the community understands and believes in western medicine and modern birth control, they have maintained that they can stay healthier by first using traditional remedies. Despite many years of repression and disbelief, local hospitals now support traditional medicine, and call upon the town’s elders when modern medicine cannot solve a problem. Doctors have been surprised by the positive results, but the Térraba are pleased that their traditions are valued.

Cacao Plant
Contains compounds that aid in the protection of UV-induced sunburns. Helps prevent burns when applied to skin prior to exposure to the sun. When applied to a sunburn in the form of cacao butter, the natural fats moisturize and soothe burned skin.
Cacao butter is full of anti-oxidants that allow for it to be used as an anti-aging face cream as well as a moisturizer.
Can be used to prevent scars by allowing the skin to become more elastic, and prevents tearing of tissues.
Cacao extracts can be used as an anti-inflammatory in reducing fever.

The natural oils in anise allow for the cleansing of the skin when used for bathing.
According to the Térraba, anise is a good source of iron when consumed. Helps with blood flow.
Cotton fibers are used to make thread that the Térraba use to stitch together wounds.
Used to clean wounds and to bathe babies.
Contains active compounds that inhibit the growth of microorganisms when the soft leaves are applied to wounds.
Used to make tea.
Used to inhibit the growth of microorganisms when applied to wounds or consumed as a tea.
Helps relieve colds when consumed as a tea.
Mostranto Plant
Helps relieve cough when consumed as with boiled milk or as a tea.
Tilo Plant
Helps relax the nervous system when consumed as a tea. Great for before bedtime. Contains coumarins, which have been known to aid in many processes such as anti-inflammatories, tumor prevention, and antibiotics.

Pasmo Plant
Used in bathing.
Digestive Issues
Used to help digestion and to reduce gas in the digestive tract. Often used during pregnancy.
Hojas de strella Plant
Used on the umbilical cord of newborns to speed the healing process.
Duate palo blanco Plant
Pain Relief
Reduces headache and toothache pain.
Hojas de Murcielago Plant
Used as a foot soak to relax tired feet.
Bone Health
Has properties to help increase bone health.
Caña agria Plant
Digestive Issues
Helps relieve digestive issues in the stomach such as bloat, gas, and upset stomach.
La hoja mas tierna de la planta hictabo
Digestive Issues
Helps relieve digestive issues in the stomach such as bloat, gas, and upset stomach.
Prostate Cancer
The Térraba believe that hictabo has anti-tumor properties that help prevent or regulate prostate cancer.
Guanabana Fruit
Cooked leaves are good for curing parasites in the stomach.
Boiled bark is used to help treat leukemia when consumed as a tea.
Orange Tree
Leaves are used to cure infections in the throat.
Vitamin C
Fruit are a good source of vitamin C to build a strong immune system.
Sugar Cane
Sugar cane is not only used to make food sweeter but is also a good source of instant energy.