Monteverde owes much of its rain forest conservation to the efforts of the Quakers who moved here from Alabama in the 1950’s. Today we had the lucky opportunity to meet one of the men who was a part of this initial journey, Marvin, and his wife from Alajuela Costa Rica, Flora. Without Marvin and the other Quakers, Monteverde would not have existed as it does now. They began the spread of agriculture and ecotourism in Costa Rica.
The group from Alabama left the US and settled in Monteverde, the city they deemed perfect to fit their needs. It was warm like southern United States, had no military, and it was closer than Australia or New Zealand. They had lots of experience in dairy farming, but being so high up on the mountain with no paved roads they had no way to sell the milk before it went bad. To prevent this, they began a dairy farm which produced cheese that they could transport to San Jose to sell. Each week they would take a jeep into town to distribute the cheese to the larger buyers in San Jose. And so, with the Quaker’s dairy farm began the influence of foreign agriculture in Monteverde, Costa Rica.
From the beginning, they had the idea to set aside one third of the land to remain as forests. They did this to ensure they maintained access to large quantities of quality water. As time progressed the Quakers took on larger conservation tasks as well. They worked with children all around the world as a part of the Save the Rainforest Program which has conserved thousands of acres of forests in Costa Rica. Now they are trying to establish programs on the Pacific coast as well. Sixty percent of Costa Rica’s forests are marked as National reserves which cannot be cut down. Since Marvin was familiar with the area, including the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, as visitors came to Monteverde and nearby areas he led them through the forests. So through Marvin began the start of ecotourism in Monteverde as we know it.
Ecotourism is now the largest industry in Costa Rica, especially Monteverde. It is sometimes referred to as “Gringolandia” because of the number of tourists it brings in from North America and Europeans. Costa Rican natives were here before the Quakers, but foreigners like them, are what brought agriculture and ecotourism to their full potential and keeps it going today. I think ecotourism is good for Costa Rica because it contributes to Costa Rica’s ideals of maintaining a sustainable country by conserving national parks and bringing money into their economy.
The current hot topic concerning ecotourism in Monteverde is whether it is a good idea to pave the roads leading here. After our bus ride up here, the idea of paving the roads seemed great. But when you consider the impact it would have on ecotourism I am not so sure. Unpaved roads make the journey up here that much more a journey, convincing people to spend at least one night. If the road were paved tourists would be more likely to make day trips here instead which would have a significant impact on the ecotourism industry. I think the unpaved roads add to the experience of visiting Monteverde and make me appreciate the journey the Quakers underwent to get here in the first place. I found it interesting that Marvin and Flora were all for paving the road. Clearly, they have experienced many upon many journeys up this path that they are experts at it by now, which made me think maybe at this point they would have embraced it and deemed it part of the experience. However, Marvin was a founder of Monteverde and wishes the best for it so to him paving the roads may be the path towards a better future.