Villa Quetzal

Villa Quetzal

Friday, January 31, 2014

Why is Costa Rica so Special?

Whether you come for a vacation, or you decide to move here permanently, Costa Rica will be the gateway to help you find yourself within a new reality.
There are many reasons why people choose Costa Rica as a vacation spot or as a new
home base. Some of the most common are: the natural beauty, the lower levels ofpollutions in the coastal areas, the informal lifestyle, and the way Ticos seem to live in present time, all the time.

This “Living in Present Time” is a concept that many of us consider a great spiritual achievement after years and years of inner work.

For Ticos, living today is all there is; tomorrow, well, God will tell.
For many of us, being in close contact with nature help us to open up to the world we always wanted and could not experience, mainly because of the work and social pressures. Here, we can relax, put aside those stereotypes that have been ruling our lives for so many years, and start being the amazing selves that we are. It may sound unbelievable, but the energy provided by nature in every one of its forms, is a propeller that will set you awakening in motion.
Costa Rica is often referred as the Switzerland of Central America, this description seems to apply to the sheer natural beauty of the country, and not to the overall development; reason why some people think it is only a cute slogan in a postcard. In the beginning of the 20th century, that slogan was an optimistic caricature of a country with some sort of democracy and widespread poverty; however, in the second half of the century, the country started to live up to that image; the slogan in the postcard became more tangible and real. The country started showing a sustained economic growth, opening the path to a strong middle class and more generous social welfare, which benefited a great majority.

With economic changes, social changes followed. More women entered the workforce, the divorce rate increased, and family size shrunk. A large number of Ticos now, are seeking higher education, and they are doing it right here in their country, which means; the system is improving.  

Such an accelerated growth has been great for the country, but at the same time, has created a gap in the roots and values of the new generations; they have been drifting and detaching from the ancestral beliefs and traditions, mirroring more and more the ever-increasing foreign population.

The traces of the indigenous civilization have been fading in the process.
Until recently, Ticos have shown little interest in their lineage; however, it seems, at least to me, that there is some renewed interest in the cultural origins, both by Ticos and foreign residents.

Humans have inhabited the rain forest of Costa Rica for about 10,000 years, and the region served as an intersection for America’s native cultures; however, the knowledge of these pre-Columbian cultures is very scant in the minds of Ticos. Perhaps, because the remains of lost civilizations were washed away by torrential rains, and no one took the time to pass through the generations the indigenous heritage.

A little bit of history tells us that Christopher Columbus, during his fourth and final voyage to the New World, in 1502, was forced to drop anchor in Puerto Limón after a hurricane damaged the ship. While waiting for the repairs, he met the friendly natives and exchange precious gifts. He returned expressing his amazement with the amount of gold he saw in what he considered a “rich coast,” that belief prompted him to give the region the name of “Costa Rica."

After his death in 1506, Columbus descendants visited the area and found out that it wasn’t abundant, and the natives were not so friendly. Then, during 1513, the intercontinental germ warfare cause outbreaks of deadly fever. Spaniards finally decided to leave the area after they noticed the scarcity of gold and other minerals.

In 1560, a Spanish colony was established in Cartago with the purpose of cultivating the rich volcanic soil of the Central Valley. Costa Rica's mainly focused on agriculture, growing corn, beans, and plantains, also producing sugar, cacao, and tobacco. By 1821, the Central America colonies declared independence; however, Costa Rica, being a little laid back, learned of its liberation a month after the fact.

Costa Rica kept moving forward at a very comfortable pace; by the 1840s, the country was able to send several hundred sacks of coffee to London; this was the beginning of a great relationship. The Costa Rican coffee was embraced with extreme enthusiasm creating a wonderful boom.

The coffee-trade, spontaneously gave bird to the banana boom.
As the story goes, to be able to get the coffee out to the world markets, it was necessary to build a railroad to link the high lands with the Port of Limón, located in the east coast of the country. The project started, but the insufficient funds turned it into a disaster, the contractor, Minor Keith, started to grow banana plants along the tracks as a cheap source of food for the workers. In a desperate move to recover his investment, he shipped some bananas to New Orleans with the hope of starting a side venture.
His ideas became a moneymaker. By the beginning of the 20th century, the banana export surpassed the coffee industry, unfortunately; great percentages of the profits from this venture were exported together with the bananas. Keith associated with another American importer to found the well-known United Fruit Company (Chiquita); it became an empire; they imported labor from Jamaica, and this move also changed the country’s ethnic complexion, provoking racial tensions.

In 1913, the blight attacked the banana plantations, and the whole industry relocated to the Pacific coast. By the 1940s that United Fruit Company, had been heavily invested in the banana production when the banana blight reached the Pacific coast, so it became urgent to come up with an alternative crop to save the company.
The African palm turned out to be a very profitable choice. By the 1970s, the palm oil production was in full swing in the Quepos area, and by 1995, the 'United Fruit Era' ended, after being sold to a local-private investor known as Palma Tica.

Costa Rica embarked in a green revolution somewhere around 1975, and became stronger a little bit at the time, by 1999, more than a million tourists visited Costa Rica, and the numbers continue soaring every year.

People come to Costa Rica for many different reasons. Some come because it is a beautiful topical place, others, because it is a cheap place to visit, others, because they can hide from the emotional noise from the big cities in the world, and some others because being in close proximity with the elements allows them the possibility of a further development and awakening.

Since we know that happiness and well-being is an inside job, it really helps to choose an environment that promotes and nourishes the fertile grounds for further physical, emotional, and spiritual flourishing.

If you have had any interest in visiting Costa Rica, I would suggest that you follow your intuition. It will help to open-up a new world of possibilities for you.

After over eight years of living in this country, I still find it full of surprising gifts that keep paving the road for my continuous growth.

It has been a wordy endeavor, and I believe you too, will find the precious present in this country.


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