Foreigners in the Forests

A photo of the quetzal bird taken from Professor Teeter’s phone!

The Cloud Forest in Monteverde is easily one of the most beautiful sights I have ever laid eyes on. Its appeal is not actually from the forest itself, but rather all the fauna and flora it contains. Our tour guide, Sergio, walked us through the path and pointed out plants that smell like cilantro, millipedes that contain cyanide, and crested guan birds that look like turkeys. We even got to see a quetzal! The quetzal is a beautiful, endangered bird most well-known for its red belly and iridescent blue-green feathers and is the Guatemalan national bird. However, the preservation of all this beauty depends heavily on the efforts of the Quakers that settled in Monteverde in 1951.

Several Quakers migrated from Alabama to Monteverde in the 1950s, because they actively criticized the United States draft. This group is greatly characterized by their peace efforts, so they decided to move to a country without an army, Costa Rica. Wilford Guindon, one of the founders and the father of Don Ricardo Guindon, and the other founders developed a farm on the “Green Mountain” where they grew crops and made cheese. He actually introduced the first chainsaw in Monteverde, but he later learned about the negative effects on the environment. From then on, Wilford Guindon and the other Quakers made an effort to conserve and preserve the mountain, creating the Monteverde Cloud Rainforest Reserve.

A lot of the preservation efforts in Monteverde are because of the Quakers. Due to the protection of the natural rainforest, Monteverde has recently shifted to an ecotourism based economy, bringing in large investors like Mexico and China. Although this is stimulating their economy and generating revenue, tourism can begin to squeeze out local Ticos like Don Guillermo of Life Monteverde. When introducing large investors, it naturally makes it harder for small businesses to keep up. In this case, Monteverde would be deprived of a lot of the original culture and passion that local business provides. Overall, the original Quakers and their descendants positively impacted the conservation of the Cloud Forest and stimulating the economy. However, this shift towards ecotourism brings in commercialization and loses native culture.

Without Costa Rica’s preservation efforts, I would not have been able to experience all the tranquility and curiosity the forest offers. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and hope to come back in a few years to a greater population of quetzal birds!

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