While U.S. expats were celebrating their Independence Day Thursday and Friday, some 70 members from native communities in the BriBri territory in Talamanca were marking the execution of Pabrú or Pablo Presbere, a leader in the fight against the Spanish. They also studied the threats that they see endangering their communities and way of life.
Among these is the proposal to put a dam in the Río Telire. Modern natives look upon Presbere as a symbol of sovereignty.
Even today the Talamanca mountains are out of the reach of the central government. Frequently police are flown in or hike in to chop marijuana plants. But life goes on in many places the way it did when Presbere was rallying his peoples against the Spanish invaders. This also is the land of the Cabécare.
Despite military missions and plenty of bloodshed, the Spanish never really gained control of the area. But they did capture Presbere who was executed in Cartago 303 years ago on July 4.
In 1709 Indians put to death two priests, 10 soldiers and a Spanish woman. The Spanish, based in Guatemala, retaliated the next year by sending 80 soldiers to pacify the area. Some 505 prisoners were captured and brought to Cartago, then the administrative center. Among the captured was Presbere, who faced trial and was executed by the garrote on July 4 of that year.
In one of the few recognitions given Presbere, the Asamblea Legislativa gave him the title of the defender of liberty of the Indigenous people in 1997.