Alabama to Costa Rica, Why Not?

Personally, an unexpected group of people to find in Costa Rica would be Quakers from Alabama. But, sure enough, they are right here in the mountain rain forest of Monteverde. These Quakers were looking to leave the United States mainly due to its militaristic style as a country and want for them to enlist in the army. So, when preparing to find a new home, they had a few needs: a non-militaristic society, a climate that was not too cold since they were from Alabama, and a place close enough to the United States that they could visit family and friends when they wanted to. They settled on packing everything up and heading off to Costa Rica with little knowledge of Spanish and lack of a plan on where they would eventually be settling. However, they eventually reached Costa Rica in 1949-50 in San Jose. The next challenge was to decide where to start building a community. They decided that they needed land that was of high elevation to avoid the malaria and yellow fever from mosquito bites and land that was inexpensive since they did not have much money. They settled on the mountain region that we today call Monteverde.

After they arrived to Monteverde, they needed a way to make money. A few of the Quaker families had owned dairy farms back in the United States, so they decided to go that route and purchased around 50 cows from San Jose. Once, the cows arrived they started producing cheese. They built a factory to make the cheese and then in 1957 received electricity which enhanced everything about their production and way of life. The cheese was exported to San Jose originally to be sold and can now be found all throughout countries in Central America. Once the cheese industry started to become stable, a new industry presented itself to the Quakers. This is the industry of ecotourism. From what started with a few tours of the rain forest led to what is today Costa Rica’s most thriving industry. They built hotels for the tourists and developed protected parts of the rainforest that extend over 90,000 acres. The ecotourism really started to come to fruition in 1980 and has been taking off ever since.

In general, foreigners have been very relevant in the growing industries of agriculture and ecotourism here in Costa Rica. For agriculture, two of the largest exported items from Costa Rica are coffee and dairy. Both have had foreigners influence their growth and development. For coffee, almost 80 percent of the coffee pickers come from outside of Costa Rica. This means that this industry depends on the foreigners to come to Costa Rica and do the work. Also, the demand for these workers has continually grown as the coffee industry in Costa Rica has expanded and as has been seen, this demand has been met and the coffee plantations and farms have benefited from the foreign workers. For the ecotourism industry, foreigners are at the core and are essential to a successful business. Firstly, for an ecotourism industry to thrive, there needs to be a want for people to visit and care about sustaining the environment they are in. I have seen that this is very prevalent here based on the amazing views and stunning natural rainforest ecosystem we were able to experience today. Also, creating the cloud forest a protected land took a global effort that made people care about what they were donating to and eventually sustaining. Overall, I have noticed that a large amount of foreign influence has gone into creating two of Costa Rica’s largest industries into what they are today.

Now that I have been in Costa Rica for almost a week, I feel that I can appropriately judge how their industries are constructed and were established. I feel that in general, Costa Rica has done a very good job in dividing how much of their source of wealth comes from each industry. I know that their agriculture nowadays is not a substantial amount, but I think it is an appropriate amount. I feel this way because their main cash crops are grown all throughout Central and South America and that makes it difficult to differentiate themselves and solely depend on the agriculture market. However, in terms of ecotourism, I strongly agree with dedicating a large portion to preserving this market and growing it. I have firsthand come to fall in love with the sights, sounds, and overall nature of what Costa Rica has to offer. For this reason, I feel that anyone that visits here will have a similar reaction and this is a main reason to continue building this industry based on the amount of possible wealth. Also, this is a way Costa Rica can set themselves apart from other countries where they cannot do so in the agriculture market. The only downside to this industry is sacrificing the preexisting land and communities to build tourist areas with hotels and resorts. However, I will say that I feel Costa Rica at this moment has a good balance between these two sides as I have not noticed a great influx of touristy areas. In general, I believe that foreigners have helped make these two industries of Costa Rica into what they are today and believe that each has a good portion of Costa Rican industry.

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