National Geographic : 1981 Jul
to the market as they move farther upland." The government has banned the export of 60 diminishing species, and national law proscribes the cutting of timber with out the proper permits. But, Hartshorn add ed, "It happens anyway, more than a third of it illegally, with the logs being trucked into San Jose or Cartago at night. Defor estation is now occurring at the rate of 60,000 hectares a year, of a remaining one and a half million hectares." Deforestation seemed as remote as snow as I boated along the east coast's jungle-hugged inland waterway, a 112 kilometer system of riv ers and canals parallel ing the sea from Lim6n to the northern border. This waterway was established to bring the riverbank-dwelling backlanders into the mainstream of national life, to boost their subsis tence economy by giving them a "road" to market in Lim6n. Water buffalo have been imported to see how they fare, and small-farm coconut pro- COURTESY BANCO duction is being en- Fanciful musi couraged. And now a and drum is part monthly medical boat collection.* Sucl treats anyone along the Spanish,who bro way-fulfilling the con- At the basilicai stitutional guarantee of page) worshipe free medical care for all curesfront Costa Ricans. In steamy Lim6n I sensed the witching lure of lassitude that makes this leading Costa Rican port so different from energetic San Jose. In the noon heat the sloths creep ing imperceptibly through the central park's trees seem supremely adapted. For all that, the city ships a million tons of cargo a year-mostly bananas-and un loads 350,000 tons. The ocean brings sailors of all nations to the city's streets. The nearby rivers and un charted jungle trails bring the occasional Indian. Probably fewer than 5,000 Indians survive in Costa Rica today, and most have cia of ht u n< rs it been assimilated into the national culture. But at Amubri, locked in the Valle de Ta lamanca, two Roman Catholic missionaries have joined with the Costa Rican govern ment-and a 27-year-old Liechtenstein aid program volunteer-to give Bribri Indians a chance to preserve their ancient tongue. No road leads to Amubri, 25 minutes south of Lim6n by air. I flew there with Florin Hoch, the volunteer from Liechten stein, in a small plane piloted by the younger priest, Father Bernar dito. We were met at the airstrip by his partner, Father Bernardo, and a flurry of nuns who un loaded supplies with practiced efficiency. At lunch in the com fortable mission, Father Bernardo (whose full beard and girth remind one of a summertime Santa Claus) explained that his flock lives on iso lated ranchos scattered miles and days apart throughout the dense jungle. Communica tion, for them, has al ways been difficult. TRALDECOSTARICA(ABOVE The "Voice of Tala n playingflute manca," in combination the nation's gold with today's inexpensive trinkets drew the transistor radios, is now ght their religion, changing all that. Broad Cartago (facing casting two hours a day, seek miraculous the new radio station he Virgin, plays music, announces a medical team's visit, and transmits "personals"-many in Bribri, so the young will not forget their roots. Messages bring word of a birth or wed ding, an invitation to a family reunion, and not-so-subtle pleas for Maria to meet Jos6 at the big rock by the river's curve ... I strolled jungle trails around the mission, admiring countless orchids-some of Ccsta Rica's 1,200 varieties. In clearings, small thatch-roofed houses perched on stilts-a wet-season necessity for an Indian rancho. *Starting in late 1981 an exhibit of Costa Rica's pre Columbian art will tour Washington, D. C., San Anto nio, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Detroit.