Don Paulino Najera, Costa Rica

Forest Bathing and native communities: when the practice meets ancestral heritage

Paulino Najera Rivera is an elder of the original Bröràn people of Terraba, Costa Rica. His participation in the I Global Summit Sciencie, Nature and Health left the attendees speechless. He radiates ancestral wisdom, calm, humility and a deep respect for both his land and new knowledge.

One might think that Don Paulino, as he is called, rests in having re-created the Council of Elders of his village, in having reforested and restored biodiversity to a land ravaged by Agriculture, in having received journalists from all over the world and children and adults from distant countries to offer them the experience of living in the Tree House as their ancestors did centuries ago. But no: Don Paulino has been trained in Tourism, and now as FTHub Forest Bathing Guide launches in the Cultural Ecological Corner Terraba the “Ancestral Forest Therapy Bröràn“, a model of ecological business and tourism in native communities.

Humility

“As native people we have a lot to contribute to the modern. I had a dream and we were weaving it all together. When I heard about Forest Therapy 3 or 4 years ago, I said ‘we will walk there’. Little by little, without rushing the time, learning from everything that life and nature gives us and what our ancestors, our older grandparents, teach us.

“They told me that there was a Certification and I am honest, I thought it was in Costa Rica, but when I started to have more information I saw that it was done outside and I said well, taking another step is good.

“The multiple experiences I have had with people, with youth as with professionals in the field of health as other fields that come to see our project, it filled me a lot because they end up making a click and many beautiful things happen.

“Just as new technologies arrive, new techniques, my grandparents worked with me and they do it differently, and if I can do that to have a better understanding, so much the better. Learning is never a bad thing. It’s like that: you learn from a child and from an adult, why not seek this possibility?

“I sought certification in Tourism, because I said to myself ‘if you have to comply with the modern world, good riddance’.

El Rincón (The Corner)

“Térraba is an indigenous territory that can be reached easily, our indigenous territory borders the Pan-American Highway that connects Mexico to Panama, and our village is 5 kilometers from the center of town.

“It is an indigenous campesino community with a school, a health center, a small community. That’s where our work is. Rincón Ecológico can be reached by 4×4 but we make an experience from the center, we leave any vehicle and we make a historical tour, where the first route that our ancestors made in 1500 was, coming from Guatemala and going to Colombia. The historical site is very important, it was almost lost but we were able to recover the spiritual part.

“In this place was the first machine where they took the pieces for the first Catholic church in the southern region of Costa Rica and next to it is the Térraba mark. There, the last cacique warrior, the last place where the Térrabas (which is also one of the largest rivers) learned to swim. It is a binational park that we share with Panama; it is one of the largest reservoirs, 199,000 hectares.

“Forty-five years ago there were cattle, horses, agriculture and the change was made by building the forest. In Rincón we have cabins and the traditional two-story house that has no walls, that’s how it was. We have solar panels to generate electricity from the mountain.

“Talking to eachother and gathering seeds, germinating them, we took them to bags, we took care of them for 6 months to then plant them in the field creating a symbiosis, and in the decade of 1980 – 1990 we planted 37000 thousand native trees of our region, after this plantation also came the planting of more than 2500 fruit trees, these with the motive that they would serve for the diet of the animals that would possibly return and, watching the spider as it weaves its house, thus we began our work”.

The mission

“We have lived through a situation of water contaminated by cow manure and we had to close and we ran out of water, we were wandering around for a gallon and having so much water, it was undrinkable. That is where our mission comes from. Today it is a water reservoir with eight springs. The flow is increasing all the time.

This is a life plan, not a tourism plan. We wanted to take up again the knowledge of medicinal plants. For some time we have been making a product based on 23 plants. The grandmothers here call it ‘the magic ointment’. During the Covid it was important, but also for stress, headaches, skin infections.

“This was what we wanted, and to be able to interact with this modern part and the health part. We started a plan to safeguard the fauna: a family of eight white-faced monkeys that today are dozens. Not only them, but also birds that did not exist, animals that did not exist and had practically disappeared.

“It is also about creating awareness among the population, which we worked very hard on. We also wanted to recover the historical and cultural part, and our gastronomy”.

The future

“Nature gives me oxygen, water, everything. And this possibility of being able to speak for them… Water, rivers and springs. We built a flight platform and there are a lot of possibilities. Those who visit us and our people have experienced that it is good to dream and that makes me very happy to see how children and adults change their way of thinking.

·Today my children grew up on this mountain. I told them to study what they like, some of them decided to study what I do, and it fills me a lot. It’s something I didn’t do for myself. I am a passing administrator.

“Opening up and working with nature opens spaces that have no limits. With this work that we promote, we have had the opportunity to meet people and friends over time. To meet celebrities who can accompany us in the world to make changes worldwide. And I am very grateful”.

 

Photos: Courtesy Rincon Ecologico Cultural Terraba (Cultural Ecological Corner Terraba)

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