Today, we finally got to explore the cloud forest in Monteverde. This reserve was started largely by the Quakers that came to Costa Rica around 70 years ago. When Don Ricardo came to talk to us about the history of the Quaker group here on Thursday, he mentioned that his father was a major influence in these efforts. Don Ricardo said that his father originally sold chain saws and taught people how to use them, largely contributing to the deforestation in Costa Rica around that time period. His father learned about how his business negatively impacted the environment, however, and decided to counter this impact with very ambitious conservation efforts. Without Don Ricardo’s father, a lot of the nature reserves in Monteverde might not exist.
With the new influx of tourists, white immigrants, and foreign investment in Monteverde, the economy and atmosphere of the area is changing dramatically. The Quakers’ cheese factory, which initially was one of the main attractions of Monteverde, was bought by a Mexican company. A Chinese company is developing a large hotel. These changes have both negative and positive impacts on the region. They both bring new investment, tourism, and awareness of conservation, but also harm the locals who have worked so hard to make Monteverde the cute little tourist destination that it is today. It’s pretty sad that the Quakers and local Ticos have given so much to their area, but the profits go to foreign companies that only recently arrived in the area.