We toured the cloud forest today and saw a variety of unique insects, animals, and birds. According to our tour guide, we were very lucky to see the Quetzal bird. This is the national bird of Guatemala, but many people travel to the mountains of Costa Rica for an easier view. (I can understand why, its appearance is breathtaking!)
The cloud forest is large in Monteverde, yet only a small portion of it is open for the public to explore. This is due to the delicacy of the land and conservation efforts that continue to exist today. According to Don Guillermo, small conservation efforts in Monteverde have existed since the founders settled the early 1910’s but the Quakers officially began the movement. They could not practice sustainability initiatives without the help of fellow Ticos, so the locals have a large role in making conservation a priority for the land. The work of the previous generations of Quakers and Ticos greatly benefit Monteverde today. Despite their initial intentions, Monteverde has become a destination of ecotourism. This has brought visitors of various backgrounds to this area and consequently, boosted the economy. Depending upon the occupations of the workers, the transformation of the Monteverde economy could be a positive or negative aspect. If people were farmers, this may have negatively impacted their business as dairy farming has decreased and been replaced by tourism. Tourism also opened the area up to more civilized lifestyles and created different opportunities for small business owners.
The conservation efforts in Monteverde that began with the Quakers has contributed to the reputation of Costa Rica as they are known for their progressive sustainability initiatives worldwide. Quakers introduced a drive for all people of Monteverde to protect the beautiful landscape and produce goods in the most environmentally mindful way. Ironically, Wilford Guindon, the father of our speaker Don Ricardo, originally brought the chainsaw to Monteverde. Later, he became one of the biggest conservation advocates and worked alongside fellow Quakers to establish the Cloud Forest Reserve. The hanging bridge and trail that we explored today was named after Wilford Guindon to honor his dedication and contribution to this environment.
Furthermore, since tourism is popular in Costa Rica and especially growing in Monteverde, the area is becoming more Americanized. I noticed in Monteverde that there were many signs in English, more bilingual workers, and items priced in American currency. This is different from Heredia, a less common place for international visitors. The more Americanized that Monteverde becomes, the more foreign investment that is introduced to this terrain. With a Mexican company purchasing the cheese factory and a Chinese company buying a hotel, there is a shift from local benefit to commercialized success. Small companies such as Life Monteverde cannot compete with the capital and innovation of international investors. Although they do not provide the same cultural experience, small businesses may be ran out of the area if the trend continues. There is also a risk that the foreign investors purchase many of these businesses, and in turn, lose the rich culture or misrepresent Monteverde. After visiting this location I have a deep respect and honor for the area’s humble beginnings.