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Chiricanos is how the inhabitants of the Panamanian province of Chiriquí are called,
on the borderline with Costa Rica.



The Chiricanos constitute one of the most important ethnic groups in the cultural conformation of the Osa population, Buenos Aires, Golfito and southern Costa Rica. Their presence has not been adequately visible for diverse reasons; their culture has not been taken into account as deserved, but in the region everyone identifies the family names Pinzón, Beita, Quintero, Atencio, Caballero, Lezcano and Pití, of Chiricano origin.

The Chiricanos come from the province of Chiriquí in Panama. The Chiricano migrations took place from the middle of the nineteenth century until the beginning of the twentieth century. There were several causes. From the Colombian side (Panama did not exist yet as a Republic), the de-structuring of the indigenous communities was what influenced it, the plundering of their lands, the expansion of cattle ranching, the depletion of the soils, the wars, the  forced enlistments, diseases and taxes. On the Costa Rican side there were large extensions of land not in use, absence of state presence and lack of borderline definition. (Amador, 1988).


Chiricano presence

By the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth, Chiricano families established near to the mouth of the Térraba and along with a few Costa Ricans, Jamaican and Nicaraguan migrants, formed a small town in El Pozo, today ciudad Cortés. It is said that the colonizing process of the Osa peninsula was linked in the beginning with Chiricano migratory surges. In 1848, Juan Mercedes Fernández, a Chiricano nationalized Costa Rican established in Golfo Dulce and travelled to Chiriquí; from there he brought the first 88 inhabitants of Osa, founding  the village of Puntarenitas or Golfo Dulce, later called Santo Domingo, origin of the current Puerto Jiménez (García, 1988; chinchilla, 1985).

Before that when José María Figueroa made an exploratory journey of the southern part of the country in 1871, besides the immensity, he found nothing but natives and Chiricanos in the region. The meseteños had recently founded Buenos Aires, but the Chiricanos were already in Hato Viejo, (currently Buenos Aires), in the plains of San Andrés, mouth of the Barú river, Boca de Hatillo Nuevo and in other places. (Amador, 1988). Their presence was always friendly; they did not form large groups and had no political importance. The Chiricanos settled gradually, though in a disperse fashion, along the east coast of the Peninsula, and less intensely around the Golfo. For 1920 or before, there were some Chiricano homesteads in el Tigre, Sándalo, La Aguja, Playa Blanca, Rincón, La Palma, San José, Ojo de Agua and Golfito (García, 1988: 35).


Chiricano cultural legacy

The Chiricanos were characterized by a strong intermingling where Negroes, mulattos, sambos, Indians, and whites are mixed. This ethnical blend resulted in a rich cultural background that the Chiricano people carry, and contributes to the South of Costa Rica. The fact of their self-sufficiency has been pointed out, shown in the artisanal production of soap, candles, medicines, furniture, and other utensils. They built ranches, made candles out of wild wax and vessels out of jícara (plant shell); corozo soap, typical foods as guacho, bienmesabe, almojábanos, the rice tamales, the buns, and the toasted rice. Of the Chiricanos it is said they learned from the Indians their peculiar ways of taming horses, mounting steers and using them to haul loads. Another Chiricano feature is their interest in chicken coops, and horse races. They liked to sing satirical and funny décimas (ten-line stanza of poetry) and introduced the punto and cumbia. Finally, the Chiricanos were integrated to Costa Rican society. Many of these cultural features have disappeared or remain there, waiting for some cultural movement to awaken and bring back to life the Chiricano traditions in our land. Strangely, the borucas conserve the saloma and accordion of Chiricano origin present in the Juego de los Diablitos. (Information extracted from  Historia y Tradición en Potrero Grande. Un pueblo costarricense de origen chiricano panameño. Amador, 1988, EUNED)




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