Community Cultural Maritime Archaeology in Costa Rica´s Southern Caribbean

Maria Suarez Toro
Posted January 29, 2020 from Costa Rica
"Descendants", float in the PARADE in Cahuita, Costa Rica
The float by Ambassadors of the Sea enacts the arrival of Danish slave ships Fredericus Iv. and Christianus V. on March 2, 1710 carrying 650 Africans to be enslaved in the Caribbean but the were set free in the shores... Finding the place of the wreck and connecting to the community's unknown stories about the arrival of Afrodescendants has been amazingly important in the process of grounding archaeological work while rediscovering the multiple strands of the roots of the Afro community today.
The cover of the first short Tonia Ina story published by University of Costa Rica
The cover of the first short Tonia Ina story published by University of Costa Rica: Today it is being published I a book of 111 stories, all about the development of a communal cultural maritime archaeology (1/1)

“When communities embrace their own communal maritime archeological culture, archeological work ceases to be only about studying the past; it becomes about re-claiming the historical legacies that are present in our bodies, lives and cultures today; those that have emerged from our interaction with the ocean and waterways.  It is about the connections, in order to collectively re-create the present, rooted in its history. When we find material cultural expressions of the past in the oceans of the communities where they ended in the seabed, they immediately interact with the intangible culture wether we like it or not; we might as well accept that they are a critical component of the discoveries because in the intangible is where they recover life again, once found.”  (MST, Centro Embajadores del Mar, June, 2019).

Video clip: https://vimeo.com/243230386

“TONA INA IN THE SOUTHERN CARIBBEAN SEA”

 The South Caribbean Sea holds historical secrets that have not been enhanced as historical legacies such as the legacy of a community of Afro-Costa Rican origin on the coast of the Cahuita National Park that recalls the tales of the founding myths that the elders did and do today. They spoke of the pirate ships and slave galleons that landed 650 enslaved Africans who were saved from being sold because they reached the coasts of the Southern Caribbean of Costa Rica by mistake of the captains, the sailors rose up and released the Africans who were brought to be enslaved in the Americas.

Of 101 of them, the stories of their re-capture, re-enslaement and even libertarian deeds of slavery are known. The rest remains "disappeared" from the official story, present in the DNA and culture of the people in Alta Talamanca, in the rest of Central America and other latitudes and longitudes at the bottom of the sea and in the territories of the region.

The Community Center of Diving Ambassadors  with the communities of the South Caribbean and local authorities of the first Park co-managed by the community and the government, jointly with the University of Costa Rica in the Caribbean wth internationl archaeologists are contributing to expand the history of the Afro-Costa Rican contribution to the South Caribbean culture at different times trying to prove the identity of vessels sunk there. They could be two Danish ships that brought Africans to be slaved from Africa to the Caribbean. 

Young people who train in tank diving and who are taking workshops with marine archaeologists at the University of Carolina del Este, are called to clarify the mystery of the place where the Danish ships arrived with the 650 Africans. 

They lost their way to Caribbean islands, reaching the coasts of the Costa Rican Caribbean without water, food and without having paid the crew. These rebelled, burning one, sinking the other and carrying the Africans safely to the coasts.

Many disappeared from the official history in the jungles of Alta Talamanca, living with the Bribri and Cabécar. I was the light of their freedom in those mountains of the original people who never let themselves be conquered.

But other Africans from the landing of the ships who walked the beach from south to north until they reached Matina, were captured by settlers in Costa Rica who took them inland and turned them into slaves.

The artifacts of the sunken ships of that event remain at the bottom of the sea without being recognized. There began an important saga, but little known, although it is very well documented in the National Archives.

One of ten TONA INA stories:

A dawn on the coast in 2017, two young people from Cahuita, Dagoberto and Jazmín, are learning to dive with a tank, along with their scuba diving instructors, Frank and Gloria, thanks to the lessons offered by the Community Diving Center.

Gloria, the instructor says: "The sea has no owner or can be parceled, all people are responsible for their care and therefore, the sea you have to feel it, not just observe it."

Frank "the sea's teacher", Gloria, Jasmine and Dagoberto step into the waters little by little, reach an imaginary point, anchor and jump out of the boat in the middle of the bay.

Jasmine fantasizes that maybe, if you look carefully you can see some treasure of pirate ships like the stories that your grandfather Hipolito and his grandmother Terentia have told you.

After being underwater, they suddenly see a strange artifact in a cave, full of conches and corals, with a round mouth and a body lying horizontally, all of the same diameter. When at last they can see well they are shocked by the resemblance they have with a cannon. Everyone looks at each other incredulously and they leave happy because they think they have found the first object of that galleon they were looking for or a cannon from a pirate ship that they had heard so many times.

Frank tells that he has seen a ring, similar to a bracelet that the slaves used and encourages the boys to investigate about those treasures and the ships with slaves that ran aground in that area. He tells them that in addition to diving to see fish, there is also diving to identify sunken ships and artifacts found on the seabed: "the sea is the one that can clarify the enigmas and with divers look for proof of identity and make them part of the legacy of that community. "

Between the Diving School and the community they are sopporting the community co / governance of the Cahuita National Park in order to cintribute to generate income for the new generation: an eco / cultural marine tour, a local museum, a trained and diving-oriented youth team and authorities of the tures, to guide and coordinate the diving of the boats.

Comments 13

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Anita Shrestha
Jan 29
Jan 29

Thank you for sharing

Maria Suarez Toro
Jan 30
Jan 30

My joy1

Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi

HI Maria,
Hope you are well my dear sister. I love scuba diving and it is actually on my bucket list and I know one day I will definitely tick it off my list. Thank you so much for the initiative of generating income for the new generation. This sounds so exciting. I love your enthusiasm for the things that you do.
Stay blessed

Maria Suarez Toro
Jan 31
Jan 31

Where do you live? Come, we will take you!

Jill Langhus
Jan 31
Jan 31

Hi Maria,

How are you? Thanks so much for sharing this informative article and post about some of the slave and pirate artifacts that your diving school is finding in the ocean. How fascinating. Are you part of these excursions when you're in town?

Hope you're safe and well, and that you have a good weekend.

Maria Suarez Toro
Jan 31
Jan 31

Of course, I coordinate them...

Jill Langhus
Feb 01
Feb 01

Oh, wow! Very cool:-)

I'm impressed.

Hello, Maria,

How awesome this is! It's vital to involve the youth in maritime archeological culture. I wish there is a program like this in our country as it is composed of more than 7,100 islands; we are surrounded by oceans. Unfortunately, only the rich can afford this kind of activity due to the expensive apparatus involved.

I love this so much, "The sea has no owner or can be parceled, all people are responsible for their care and therefore, the sea you have to feel it, not just observe it."

Thank you for sharing this with us!

Maria Suarez Toro
Feb 05
Feb 05

I exported your amazing comment to the Ambassadors of the Sea facebook page together with your picture.
Facebook: Centro Comunitario de Buceo Embajadores y Embajadoras del Mar

Oh, wow! Thank you for sharing! Best regards to all! Have a great day! Keep up the great work.

Beth Lacey
Feb 07
Feb 07

Very interesting article

Tamarack Verrall
Jun 20
Jun 20

How amazing to see this discovery being investigated and documented, especially to see the many young people being trained to help explore.

Maria Suarez Toro
Jun 20
Jun 20

The youth is the real treasure in that process