This morning we got an early start and headed to the cloud forest reserve in Monteverde for a beautiful three hour hike through the forest. Our tour guide Eduardo showed us the natural beauty of the cloud forest and told us all about the huge amount of biodiversity found there. On our walk we crossed the hanging bridge and saw many species of birds, insects, and even some spider monkeys!
We were able to experience this breathtaking natural beauty today due to the influence of the Quakers in Monteverde. The Quakers arrived in Monteverde in the 1951 and began to work on preserving the forests of Monteverde. They bought a lot of land for the purpose of farming and conservation, and they gradually bought more and more land for the reserve. The Quakers understood the importance of preserving Costa Rica’s natural resources for the next generation, and the presence of this vast untouched forest has had a huge impact on Monteverde’s economy. Ecotourism has really taken off in Monteverde, and each year the cloud forest attracts thousands of visitors, largely from North America and Europe. While tourism is overall beneficial for the economy, there are implications for the locals that must be thought about.
For famers like Don Guillermo, the rise of tourism has been helpful, but also harder to adapt to. Now instead of just farming, Life Monteverde must ensure it can keep up in the tourism industry as well. Additionally, Monteverde has seen foreign investors enter its economy in recent years, but with foreign investment comes foreign influence. A possible concern could be that the influence of foreigners is overshadowing the vibrant Tico culture. In Monteverde I noticed that a lot of signs were in English first, then Spanish which shows how prevalent tourism is. A country’s culture can and should be influenced by other cultures, but we must be careful to make sure that foreign influence doesn’t become too strong.
Overall, I think the shift to ecotourism in Monteverde and Costa Rica in general is positive. The Quakers specifically were crucial in saving the cloud forest from deforestation, which has enabled this shift. It seems as though the foreigners and the Ticos have good relationships, as we saw in the case of Don Ricardo (a Quaker descendant) and Don Guillermo (one of the founders of Life Monteverde).Even the hotel we stayed in is an example of the Quaker influence on tourism due to the fact that it is half Quaker owned and half Tico owned.