Thursday, August 21, 2008

Costa Rican to Head UN Indigenous Rights Organization

This past month a local Costa Rican native tribe member, Jose Carlos Morales of the Brunka Tribe was elected to represent the Latin American region on the new Team of Experts on Indigenous People’s Rights. The organization was created by the president of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Doru Costeas.

The title comes as a great honor to Morales as only four other individuals were chosen to represent other regions of the world. Morales will no doubt represent all of the Latin American Region properly as his title is due to a lifetime of hard work and support of the indigenous community.

Morales was the first indigenous Costa Rican to complete his University level studies and has always dedicated himself to the cause of his local people. It wasn’t long after he graduated before he soon became the indigenous movement leader in Costa Rica. He was also the first indigenous Latin American to occupy the presidency of the World Council of Indigenous People, as well as earning the title as the only indigenous person to occupy a position in the Focal Point of the Decade for Indigenous People in the United Nations. Morales also presided as president of the Regional Council of Indigenous People (CORPI) making him an obvious choice to represent the Latin American Region of the world in the organization of the new Team of Experts on Indigenous People’s Rights.

Before being elected into the United Nations General Assembly on September 13, 2007, Morales was an active participant during the United Nations Declaration on the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights negotiation process. Morales proudly represented the World Enclave of Indigenous People for three whole years before becoming involved with the United Nations, making him a true source of pride for the Brunka Tribe.

The tribe Morales hails from is known as the Brunka Indians (also known as the Boruca or the Brunca) and is made up of about 2,000 members who live on a reservation in the Puntarenas Province at the Reserva Borunca. The reserve was one of the first established in Costa Rica around 1956 and the Brunka live and operate within the reserve as a self governing entity. However, at one time the Brunka used to rule over most of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast beginning in what is now known as the small beach front town of Quepos all the way through the Osa Peninsula and down to the Panamanian border.

The Brunka are known mainly for their weaving and painted wood masks as well as other art and craft work. Despite living on their own private reserve, the Brunka’s native language is nearly extinct. There are only six elderly speakers surviving today. The language descends from the family of Chibchan languages; however it is also a product of several different mixtures of speech making it a one-of-a-kind indigenous language. Younger members of the population are able to understand their native tongue, however, they generally do not speak it despite the fact that it is taught in the local school. The main and most universal language of the Brunka is Spanish. It is spoken most widely throughout the population.

It’s comforting to find that nations around the world are starting to take notice to the drastic dwindling of indigenous populations around the world, however, it’s a shame they had not taken interest in these unique cultures sooner in order to preserve languages and traditions that may never be recovered.

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