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Jesús Villareal
Susan Chavaria
Ceramic plate from Guatíl, Costa Rica

Susan Chavaria and Jesús Villareal: Reviving their pre-Columbian past

Where and what they were BCR (Before Costa Rica)
Their Chorotega ancestors were here before Costa Rica was Costa Rica.

What they’re doing now
Jesús, Susan, and their family are among a handful of clans that make up the village of Guatíl, the epicenter of a renaissance in Chorotega ceramics that draws tourists and locals interested in the area's pre-Columbian past and its indigenous present. Often presided over by matriarchs who have been working with clay since they were girls and who learned their craft from mothers and grandmothers, the families of Guatíl are hoping that reviving the work of their matrilineal tribal ancestors will prove not only spiritually satisfying but also economically viable. Pottery is the only "industry" in this tiny town on the Nicoya Peninsula (12 kilometers east of Santa Cruz), arrayed around a soccer field and consisting of a church, a small general store, and a dozen or so spreads that do triple duty as studios, shops, and family homes.

Roll into town and you won't have to ask where the pottery is--pottery is all there is here. Unless you coincide with a small tourist van you may be the only visitor around. Take time to talk with some of the artists and to look at their different takes on Chorotega themes: figures that are half-animal, half-human, or ones that have exaggerated genitalia in celebration of fertility; plates, bowls, and vases enlivened with the traditional geometric or botanical patterns in black, ocher, and red.



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