It was about three hours after sunset on March 18, 2019, when a resident of Yeri, a remote Indigenous settlement near the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, heard the sound of gunfire from his neighbour’s home. When two policemen arrived at the crime scene a couple of hours later, they found a 59-year-old man lying in his bedroom with seven 9mm bullet wounds across his back.
News spread quickly of the murder of Sergio Rojas, the most prominent Indigenous leader in the country’s recent history.
Carlos Alvarado, the president of Costa Rica at the time, described Rojas’s death as “tragic”, not only for Indigenous peoples but also for the whole country.
Rojas, the leader of the Bribri tribe, had fought to reclaim Indigenous ancestral land, the vast majority of which had been illegally occupied since at least the 1960s.
Land is vital to the histories and identities of Indigenous people around the world, including those in Costa Rica. Their relationship to a given territory is often familial and spiritual, not to mention critical to sustaining their agricultural livelihoods and lifestyle close to nature. Rojas fought not only for land as an economic resource, but