Monteverde, Settled by Quakers

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resplendent quetzal

resplendent quetzal

The Community named Monteverde was settled by eleven Quakers  families from Alabama in the early 1950s.  They left the United States and came to Costa Rica looking for a new home,  because they had a strong belief against the military system of the US .  Costa Rica,  in 1948 permanently abolished it’s army, and known to be a peaceful and beautiful country.    These young settlers had searched from the Panama border,  the entire length of Costa Rica and over to the Nicoya peninsula searching for that perfect place to settle and raise their families.  They  choose this area for it’s  cool, moist mountain climate, and remote setting, and gave it the name Monteverde, meaning “green mountain”  This area was sparsely populated and the soil was rich.  They brought with them skills of farming and started dairy farms and began to make cheese ( this cheese is famous today). They planted gardens and raised their food, and soon began to raise cattle for beef production.  They built their homes by cutting and sawing logs and used a system called  “the working bees” where members of the community joined in to “raise a house.”

The Quakers founded a school to educate their children and gave it the name School of Friends, and the school is still operating today. They sought to teach the children Real Values and make them grow strong mentally and spiritually. The Quakers believed that a part of a child’s education should be to learn about the environment and how to protect our natural resources. They believed in living a simple life where the family is the most important thing.

The Quakers believed in no barriers of race, creed, or nationality and soon integrated with their Costa Rican neighbors  who were very friendly and helped  them  settle.

Today the Quakers numbering around 800 still make their home here.  They  are also very successfully growing coffee, and are actively  involved in the tourism industry which is the biggest business now in the area of Monteverde.

Monteverde as a tourist destination. Despite the difficult road to get up to Monteverde, it is a major tourist attraction in Costa Rica, drawing up to 200,000 visitors per year.  Tourist interested in nature are lured here by the famous  Monteverde cloud forest Reserve (in Spanish Reserva Biologica Bosque Nuboso)  The hugh trees  making up this primary rainforest will enchant you. The weather is cool and moist due to its high elevation, and has an enchanting mist over it, giving you a feeling of being in the clouds.    The annual rainfall is 118 inches.   This reserve was founded in 1972 by a scientist named George Powell and a Quaker Wilford Guindes.  The reserve has 9 main trails , totaling 13 Km.  the walking trails are well marked and easy to walk, although a few have  steep inclines.  I visited in March when the weather was not so rainy and I was lucky to see the Splendid Quetzal.  This bird has its mating season in March and April and makes its home within this forest.

The Quetzal is a large bird, brilliant  blue-green in color with a red breast.  It has a long tail with beautiful feathers.  It is reclusive and hard to spot, but our guide knew where it was nesting. The Quetzal was sacred to the ancient Mayan and Aztec people .  Royalty and priests wore its feathers  during ceremonies.

We wanted to take another hike so we choose the near by  Santa Elena ClouFod rest at 5,600 feet above sea level.  Here we have 12 Km of trails to choose from but of course we aren’t going to hike all of them.  So we choose one of the easier ones and begin our journey.  Its very cool today and we need our rain jackets, there is a steady mist in the air.  The trees are hugh and seem to grow to the sky with very little sunlight coming through.   The trees are   filled with all the varieties of bromeliads which are blooming   in colors and bright reds and pinks.  The sounds of birds are all around us.  We are  looking for the splendid quetzal but unfortunately we weren’t able to spot it.  We have been told that it is very hard to see one.  We saw a howler monkey in the distance but due to the dense forest we were unable to get near him.  After two hours I was tired so we returned to the hotel for a nice long rest.  Listening to the patter of the rain on the tin roof.

What is the difference in the Monteverde Cloud forest  Reserve and the Santa Elena Cloud Forest?  The Monteverde Cloud forest reserve is more of a PRIMARY rainforest.  This means that the trees are very very old (hundreds of years)  Santa Elena Cloud Forest is a secondary rainforest meaning that at some point in time– the trees were cut and then replanted.  The trees here are hugh and beautiful–just not as big and tall  as those in the Monteverde Cloud Forest.

The beautiful photo of the quetzal shown above was taken by photographer Scott Wilkinson.    See more of his work at www.scottwilkinson.com

Or  www.sapotours.com/gallery.aspx

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