Quakers in the Clouds

Today Marvin gave an interesting presentation on the history of Quakers in Monteverde.  His story was very entertaining and can be used to show how foreigners influence different aspects of other cultures.  In the past few decades, Costa Rica has started to become a very popular place for individuals to either move to or vacation.  These individuals, including Marvin, are a large reason for the way that Costa Rica is today.

Marvin and a few other individuals (all of which were Quakers) were arrested in the United States for refusing to enlist in the army.  They served their sentence (one year and one day) and left the United States six days later because they felt it was too militaristic.  They wanted to go somewhere close, and eventually chose Costa Rica because “it was the best of the Central American countries.”  Marvin and 44 other Quakers arrived in Costa Rica in the early 1950s and discovered Monteverde.

When Marvin arrived in Costa Rica, he wanted to avoid the mosquitoes, so he went to elevated land that eventually became known as Monteverde.  The Quakers purchased 3400 acres of land and decided to preserve 1/3 of the land (to protect the clean water supply), and use the other 2/3.  At first, they wanted to convert the forest into a farm to produce milk.  However, they realized that this was not a good idea because the milk would easily spoil, so they decided to produce cheese.  In order to do this the Quakers had clear the forest and then bring cattle up the mountains.  Originally, the land in Monteverde was not usable for agriculture, but the Quakers worked on and developed it, which allowed for the new addition of cattle.  This is how the Quakers influenced agriculture, because they completely changed the land that was there before in order to produce cheese.

Marvin was also very influential in the development of ecotourism in Monteverde.  When his family returned to Monteverde from the United States, they decided to open a hotel.  However, it is very difficult to get to Monteverde because of the narrow and steep roads, so the hotel was not very successful at first.  In order to attract tourists, they started giving tours of the rain forests.  The two rain forests were the Cloud Forest and the Children’s Eternal Rain Forest.  Tourists started coming up the mountain to see the beautiful nature, and the Monteverde that we know today was created.  Marvin also pointed out that ecotourism is a major part of Monteverde’s economy. 

Normally I would say that the influence of foreigners on agriculture and ecotourism is a bad idea, but in Marvin’s case I think it worked out.  Foreigners normally bring techniques that they use in their native country, but the land and climate is different so this normally does more harm than good.  However, if the foreigners are willing to adapt to the new land and culture, I think their influence on agriculture and technology could be a great idea.  Foreigners can bring the ideas that work from home and tweak them in a way that benefits the new land.  Also, it can be very beneficial for foreigners to influence ecotourism, because most tourists are foreigners anyway, so they know what people will want to see.  In Marvin’s situation, he was willing to adapt (as he switched from focusing on milk to cheese), and started giving tours of the rain forests, which led to success in the end. 

Monteverde is a perfect example of a place where foreigners had a large influence on agriculture and ecotourism.  I thought it was really cool that we were able to meet and listen to a presentation from one of the founders of this amazing city.  I enjoyed how Marvin was telling his own personal story, so we knew everything that he said was true.  I am excited to explore more of Monteverde and Costa Rica, and to learn more interesting information about this beautiful country!

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