Quakers in the Costa Rican Forest
Did you know that one of the first communities that inhabited Monteverde were the Quakers? Learn more about their history in the country.
Before the 1950s
During World War II and after the United States entered the conflict, a massive arms industry developed without precedent in history.
These were times of war and, in order to prepare, the United States imposed the Selective Service Act, which practically forced those selected to enlist in the army.
What happened if they didn’t want to enlist? Take the example of the four people from Alabama who were imprisoned for a year and four months for refusing to be part of the U.S. Army.
Clearly they were between a rock and a hard place. No wonder these same people wanted to live in a more peaceful place at the time of their release.
Their search for the ideal home did not take long, as they heard about Costa Rica, its recent abolition of the army in 1949 and the government’s policy of inviting foreigners to develop the country.
Who are the quakers?
The Religious Society of Friends (or just the Society of Friends) comes from the radical English Puritans of the 17th century. The name of its members is Quaker which derives from the word quake, alluding to the instruction of George Fox, its founder: “Tremble in the name of the Lord”.
This is how seven Quaker families from Alabama decided to fly to Costa Rica with ideals of a more stable and secure life.
Only Marvin Rockwell’s family and his sister’s family decided to embark on a journey in a truck that crossed the territories of Mexico and Central America to reach Costa Rica.
The people who arrived by truck were met with a surprise: there was no road, which made their passage through the country very difficult.
They traveled through Costa Rica for 6 months and it was not until April 19, 1951, that they managed to reach Monteverde on horseback, due to the unsuitability of the terrain for vehicles. In fact, it is because of this event that “Monteverde Day” is celebrated every year on April 19.
Monteverde at that time was a wild territory, so the new settlers were given the task of making way for the first Jeeps and to improve the passage to the new town thanks to pickaxe, sticks and other tools.
At first, they slept in tents, until they bought 1400 hectares under the permission of the Costa Rican government and were able to build houses.
The Quakers gave the name Monteverde to this region because, as you go up the mountain, the vegetation becomes greener and greener.
Once settled, the Quakers began work and realized that they needed to develop a product that would help them subsist and maintain a stable and lasting economy.
In this way, and taking advantage of the knowledge of some Quakers in the cattle business, they bought 50 calves and while these were being developed, the Monteverde Company was legally constituted, which would produce dairy products.
A boiler was brought from the United States and by April 1954, 150 kilos of cheese were being produced per day.
As the demand for cheese grew, they invited other producers in the area to improve the quality of their milk and began to buy the dairy product from them.
Some cheeses were sold in San José, such as Gouda, which had to mature for two months and therefore did not require refrigeration or immediate delivery.
Today, the population of Monteverde consists of Quakers with their pacifist way of life, Costa Ricans, many biologists, students and conservationists. All of these people have dedicated themselves to the development and conservation of this area, which was once threatened by urbanization.