Chorotega pottery tradition gets boost in clay search

The pottery operations in Guanacaste that date back before the Mayan empires got a boost Wednesday.

President Laura Chinchilla declared them in the public interest. The artisans and their work also were declared intangible cultural heritage of the country. So designated were the communities of  Guaitil de Santa Cruz, San Vicente and las Pozas de Nicoya where about 800 families depend directly or indirectly on the production of pre-Columbian-style pottery.

The designations are more than just recognition. The potters there have been having trouble obtaining the right kind of clay for their work.

Manuel Obregón, the minister of Cultura y Juventud, was at a meeting there in June to hear about the problem. He was there Wednesday, too, with the president.

The designations might open the way for the potters to obtain clay elsewhere than on the private land that has been the traditional source.

The works are called Chorotega pottery. Usually they are polychrome bowls and sometimes elaborate figurines. The designations also open the possibility of financial aid for the artisans, said the culture ministry.

The designations came in the form of decrees issued at a presidential cabinet meeting Wednesday in Filadelfia, Guanacaste. The president has been in that area for two days as part of the celebration of the 189th anniversary of the Anexión del Partido de Nicoya, which is today.

The area is home to the  Eco Museo that features the work of the potters.

The Museo Nacional says that the residents of the San Vicente area have been making ceramics for the last 4,000 years. That may be a conservative estimate. The workshops were a source of ceramics for the Mayans and Aztec cultures.

Some of the molds may well be the same ones that were used to put pots on the table of the elite in the Valley of México.

The Museo Nacional estimates that about half the population of the community older than 12 years is involved in gathering the raw materials, fabricating the pieces, firing them and marketing them.

The clay has been becoming harder and harder to obtain because the best sources are on private land and the price has become so high that it puts the economic stability of the community at risk, the ministry has said.

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