Blog 7: Influence of Immigrants on Costa Rica

Costa Rica has been heavily influence by immigrants from North America and Europe, who came to this country for various different reasons.  An example of a group of these immigrants are the Quakers who immigrated here from Alabama in 1951. We had the unique experience of meeting Marvin Rockwell, one of 45 Quakers who left Fairhope, Alabama for Costa Rica. They left because the United States’ compulsory draft did not align with their religious views as Quakers, who were pacifists. Rockwell mentioned that they chose Costa Rica because of its warmer climate and its relatively close proximity to home, compared to other countries they considered, such as Australia. In addition, Costa Rica had a very stable government, unlike Nicaragua and Honduras, who were experiencing civil unrest at the time. Most importantly, Costa Rica disbanded its army in 1948, so there was no risk of the Quakers being forced into another draft. In my opinion, these reasons are largely the same for other immigrants to Costa Rica. Its stable government and neutrality allows for peaceful living with little threat of foreign attacks. Also, its tropical climate and both high and low altitudes allows for various types of agriculture year-round, which provided immigrants a way to earn money. Overall, Costa Rica provided a peaceful and welcoming environment for Marvin Rockwell and many others like him.

In my opinion, the influence of foreigners, such as Marvin Rockwell, on agriculture has been mixed. One example of this is the development of agriculture. Obviously, the arrival of immigrants means a greater demand for land to farm on, and this means clearing a lot of the rainforest. In addition to the land that needed to be cleared for the crops themselves, houses and roads were also constructed which increased the impact immigrants to this country have on the environment here. Rockwell and the other Quakers were aware of this fact, and set aside two thirds of their land to be a wildlife reserve. This ensured that this area would be protected and could not be touched by others who moved to this region. Also, it protected their water shed and kept a sustainable climate for agriculture on the lands they were farming on. Overall, immigrant agriculture has had a negative impact on the land, but farmers can take steps to reduce the negative impact, or even create a positive impact, like in Rockwell’s case.

Ecotourism has had a very positive influence on Costa Rica’s GDP and immigrants have helped this greatly. By settling regions in the rainforest, immigrants have created oases in the rainforest that are perfect centers for ecotourism. Rockwell and the Quakers creation of Monteverde is a perfect example of this. Rockwell mentioned how rafters in the region asked to hike the preserved areas of their farm several times, and eventually they opened a hotel. This spread ecotourism to the region and this area is now a very popular town for it. Ecotourism is a very sustainable way to use the land, as it has little to no negative impact on the environment. In fact, ecotourism educates people about the need to preserve this environment and in turn influences people to make more environmentally friendly choices. Also, foreigners attract their relatives at home to the region and increase the number of people who partake in ecotourism. In conclusion, the influences that foreigners have on ecotourism has been very positive.

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