Local artist captures cultures for kids with three languages

Flor de Tabaco from Guanacaste performs as part of the international book fare. There are similar presentations and seminars each day through Sept. 2. A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson

After Costa Rican artist Ruth Angulo Cruz had her daughter, she began to search for books they could read together that depicted the country’s culture. To her surprise it was a hard feat.

“In Costa Rica most books are from Mexico, Spain, and Argentina, but there is nothing about our identity,” she said.

To change this, Ms. Angulo began to write and illustrate her own stories. Using Costa Rican animals, she depicts the countries natural attractions. Now, 12 years later, she has her own line of six books through Casagarbato.

“My daughter likes to learn different languages. She knew how to say bear and fox, but these are things we don’t have,” she said. “Kids can learn about things that are closer to us and our culture and our problems.”

A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
Ruth Angulo Cruz and her trilingual books.

These books are written in English, Spanish and Bribri, so children of all backgrounds can share together.

Ms. Angulo also works to preserve some of the native traditions by narrating tales of creation passed down from the Bribri. The author’s grandmother was Bribri, but she, herself, grew up without learning a lot of the language and customs.

Throughout time the Bribri language has been mostly oral. It is her mission to make an account of the history while giving children from this background the opportunity to see and learn the written language. As she researches, it is also her goal to learn more about her identity, she said.

“The children are very happy because they don’t have literature in Bribri language. With the books they can copy letters and read aloud with teachers,” said Ms. Angulo.

Another unique aspect about the books is they can be read in both picture and word form. Ms. Angulo began as an artist but added words to make her work richer.

“The texts are small with big drawings. One can read without the huge weight that comes from a lot of words. They can also read the images that tell the story in way that is different but complementary,” she said.

Ms. Angulo encourages people to send books to others and also to donate books to Bribri, since many of the people can’t afford them. More information can be found at www.casagarboto.com.

The local artist was one of many showcasing their work at the Feria International del Libro which began Friday in the Antigua Aduana. More than 46 international exhibiters from places such as Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, Peru, Spain, Nicaragua and the Caribbean are present to sell books.

Also present is Libreria International. The bookstore offers best-selling series such as “The Hunger Games,” “Harry Potter,” “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” “50 shades of Grey” and “Eragon” in Spanish.

The fair opened with a Friday morning presentation to children from schools in the area. Dance students from the Conservatorio de Castella and the Escuela República de Haití danced.

Guanacaste’s group Flor de Tabaco presented a dance in honor of the Tica women and Esmeralda Britton danced a Caribbean dance with her partner Sirvano Valerin.

Admission to the fair is 1,000 colons for adults and 500 colons for students.

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