Costa Rica’s smallest tribe: The Maleku

Join us on a cinematic voyage like no other in the rain forests of Costa Rica. In our ThisWorld Original film, “The Maleku,” we unravel the captivating story of one of Costa Rica’s smallest indigenous communities, the Maleku tribe. Through breathtaking imagery and intimate storytelling, we delve into the heart of Maleku culture, exploring their ancient traditions, the challenges they face, and the resilience that defines them.

Nestled within the emerald embrace of Costa Rica’s landscapes lie the three sacred communities of the Maleku tribe: Palenque el Sol, Palenque Margarita, and Palenque Tonjibe. Despite their small numbers — just 650 individuals — the Maleku people stand tall as guardians of a cultural legacy stretching back through the annals of time. Their commitment to preserving their language, customs, and connection to the land is unwavering, despite the ever-present threats of modernity.

Central to Maleku life is their profound reverence for the forest, which they view as the very essence of existence. To the Maleku, the forest is not merely a collection of trees; it is a living, breathing entity that sustains all life. Through reforestation efforts, they seek to restore balance to their ecosystem and reclaim their ancestral lands from encroaching forces.

   Craftsmanship lies at the heart of Maleku identity, with artisans skillfully weaving intricate chiquichiqui baskets and creating artworks that serve as tangible expressions of their heritage. These creations are not just objects; they are vessels of history, carrying within them the stories of generations past and the hopes of generations to come.

In “The Maleku,” we are introduced to Hiqui, a revered leader within the Maleku community whose passion for preserving her people’s way of life knows no bounds. Through her guidance and unwavering dedication, she embodies the spirit of resilience that defines the Maleku tribe.

When we journey deeper into the Maleku world, we are confronted with the harsh realities of their existence. Land disputes and encroachment by non-indigenous settlers threaten not only their territorial rights but also the very fabric of their culture. Despite these challenges, the Maleku people stand firm, determined to protect their ancestral lands and way of life.

The film also pays homage to the wisdom of elders like Aniseto Veta, whose words serve as a poignant reminder of the urgency of their struggle. As he reflects on a time when Maleku traditions thrived, he underscores the importance of preserving their heritage for future generations. Don Aniseto has since passed away but we will carry his wise words and cherish his legacy for the years to come. 

But amidst the challenges, there is hope. Through “The Maleku,” we invite viewers to stand in solidarity with the Maleku tribe, to amplify their voices, and to support initiatives that promote indigenous rights and cultural preservation. Together, we can ensure that the flame of Maleku culture continues to burn bright, illuminating the path for generations to come.

We want to send special thank to Julio Carvajal for capturing the Maleku tribe and taking us on a journey in the forests of Costa Rica. 

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