Costa Rican indigenous communities’ land dispute

The dispute over ancestral land claims between the indigenous Costa Ricans and current occupants has led to killings. The indigenous people have resorted to squatting on lands they have claims over.

  • What is ‘recovered land’ or ‘recuperaciones’ in this context?

The term ‘recovered land’ or ‘recuperaciones’ refer to squatter communities of indigenous people in Costa Rica. The indigenous people have begun squatting on lands that they have ancestral claims to. This has led to conflicts with the current occupants.

  • How many ethnic groups of indigenous people are in Costa Rica?

There are 8 major ethnic groups of indigenous Costa Ricans. They are Boruca, Bribri, Cabecar, Guaymi, Huetar, Maleku, Matamby and Teribe. They constitute only 2.4% of the population. About 6% of the lands in Costa Rica is labelled as indigenous lands.

  • What are the disputed lands being used for?

The disputed lands are currently being used as farms and cattle ranches. The dispute has led to the killing of an indigenous activist again. There are about 104,000 indigenous people in Costa Rica who live mainly along the border with Panama in their ancestral territories.

  • Is the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous People legally binding?

The UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous People is not legally binding. It defines individual and collective rights of indigenous people and was passed in 2007. Costa Rica is a signatory.


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