Indigenous Inspiration for Contemporary Designs

The Pacuare Lodge works in four areas – Culture, Conservation, Commerce and Community – to benefit local people and nature and ensure an authentic experience for our guests. Weaving these elements together in a truly sustainable manner requires constant research and learning, which includes understanding and appreciating the cultural heritage of our indigenous Cabécar neighbors.

The fruits of such efforts can be found in the Cabécar rancho, or traditional home, that our neighbors built on the Pacuare Lodge’s grounds; in the native details in the interior design of our bungalows; and in our new partnership for the production of handbags using materials that indigenous people have collected in the rainforest since time immemorial.

aed13-2016-11-03-photo-00000008Marisol Lamas, a Costa Rican painter, photographer and interior designer, has been working with us for over 12 years to develop the Pacuare Lodge’s unique ambiance. She explained that the design of the lodge’s bungalows and suites was inspired by the area’s tropical nature and indigenous culture.

“Our idea was to represent the magnificence of the rainforest by highlighting particular elements that are present in the jungle without competing with its natural beauty. Our vision is a simple, creative interior design that complements the splendor of the surroundings,” she said. “The Cabécars, our neighbors, belong to Costa Rica’s largest indigenous group and they maintained many of their traditional customs and beliefs. We have worked with them on an important component of the bungalow’s design.”

Lamas explained that the headboards in the bungalows were hand crafted by Cabécar artisans who live near the lodge using two traditional materials: mastate, which they create by pounding the bark of a type of rainforest tree until it becomes like cloth, and burio, a fiber extracted from the bark of another tree that they use to make baskets, ropes and hammocks. Mastate has religious significant in Cabécar culture. They are just two examples of the varied rainforest plants that the Cabécars harvest for food, shelter, medicine and dress.

At the Pacuare Lodge, we strive to strengthen such traditions while providing our Cabécar neighbors with options for improving their lives. The collection and preparation of these traditional materials provided extra income for members of the local community and strengthed their connection to the Pacuare Lodge. Their contribution also added to the allure of Lamas’ interior design, the vision and creativity of which have been confirmed by the compliments of countless guests.

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Our desire to help the Cabécar people preserve their traditions and improve their livelihoods also led us to collaborate with fashion designer Alvaro Nuñez, whose company Autoctono produces handbags, computer cases and other accessories that are “100 percent Costa Rican.”

“Autoctono produces contemporary products while working with indigenous artisans,” Nuñez explained. He visited the Pacuare Lodge earlier this year to meet with people from a nearby Cabécar community and explore the possibility of creating a new product with traditional Cabécar materials. He subsequently created a prototype of a handbag made of cloth and mastate, which Cabécars living near the lodge will produce and sell to Autoctono.

pacuare-42Nuñez explained that he has been working with the Buruca tribe, in southeast Costa Rica, for several years and is excited to have an opportunity to work with the Cabécar. “The interesting thing is that each of Costa Rica’s indigenous groups has its own materials and techniques,” he observed.

Because he sells his products to high-end markets, Nuñez is able to pay good prices to his indigenous suppliers. He compared his business to fair trade, adding that he is happy to collaborate with the Pacuare Lodge because he and the lodge’s owners share the same values.

“The idea is to help members of rural communities earn additional income,” he said.

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