Gringos and Ticos

Today we got to hear from one of the Quakers who came to Costa Rica in 1951 and developed the area of Monteverde. There are actually many North Americans and Europeans who come to Costa Rica, and they influence the development of the economy. The new economy relies a lot on ecotourism but it used to rely on agriculture. The people coming from other parts of the world helped the development of agriculture because they brought with them knowledge from their native culture and also adapted to the new environment. Since they were coming to a new land they were desperate to do what they could to make a living and survive so they were willing to farm the land for the right to purchase a plot. The Quakers knew that they wanted to be somewhere with high elevation (where mosquitoes and other insects aren’t as big as an issue) and flat land. When they found Monteverde, it was perfect. Up on the mountain but not completely hills. They decided to raise cows and make cheese because they had to find something that would last the long trip down the mountain and to the central valley for sale. They had about 3,400 acres at the beginning, and they knew to leave about a third of the land to be left as forest to ensure good quantity and quality of water. They also used hydropower to run their saw mill so they could cut wood and build houses. In 1957 a Quaker brought a 75 kilowatt generator to the community and made a hydroelectric plant so that the community could have electricity. The Costa Rica neighbors nearby did not get electricity until about 1980. So the Americans were advanced and helped Costa Rica advance, too. Marvin said they had a good relationship with the local Ticos even though it took them a while to learn Spanish. Marvin was a surgical technician in World War II so he helped those in the Quaker community and the nearby Ticos whenever someone needed medical care. So they were very grateful, and he said many Tico babies were named after him. Also the Tico priest would come and baptize babies and marry couples. So the two communities worked together and coexisted. I think the foreigners helped advance the agricultural economy because of their different knowledge, their desire to work for their new life, and their cooperation with Ticos.

They also had a very important positive impact because of the efforts they made to preserve the rain forest. I think it is because the foreigners come from somewhere else that they realize how special and important the land in Costa Rica is. In 1972 the Quakers were an important part of founding the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. When one of their teachers went to Sweden and talked to children about saving the rainforest, they wanted to help and started to raise money. It soon spread so children around the world were working to donate money, and the Children’s Eternal Rainforest expanded the amount of reserved land. This also caused the rainforest to become known as a beautiful destination for tourists. In the 1980s tourism became the major part of the economy. So the many foreigners that came to backpack through trails or study the biodiversity brought money to Costa Rica. Marvin and his family ran a hotel for a while to host travelers visiting and they provided them with the basics to keep the price reasonable. He also was a tour guide for the national park. I think foreigners initiating a change to ecotourism was a good thing because it helped Costa Rica to change with the world and meant they didn’t need to rely on only agriculture. Foreigners are definitely an important part of Costa Rican history, and I think the changes they caused mostly benefited the country and the Tico culture is still true to itself despite many new people.

Leave a Reply