I awaken to a “chilly” 55-degree sun-filled Monday in Monteverde, northwest of the capital city of Costa Rica on a mountainside overlooking Nicoya Bay from an altitude of 4,500 feet. It is my 21st day in Central America, with just 11 days left until my departure. And there is still much to do.
I am here to visit a community of people to whom sustaining their natural resources has meant survival itself. I look around my room at this lodge, the first structure built to house non-resident visitors to Monteverde. Minus one small wardrobe, the furniture is handmade, the bed rough-planed lumber bolted to a frame of peeled and dressed limbs, the mattress resting not on springs but on wooden planks.
When I said in the last series segment that the road to Monteverde is as much metaphor as fact, this is part of what I meant. Where we tend to think of both American pioneers of the 19th century and Latin American campesinos of the 20th as people who move into an area, clear the land, grow a season or two of crops and move on, when the first Quaker families climbed the mountain and settled Monteverde, they knew they had literally come to the end of their road. They had purchased the only farmable, affordable piece of land large enough for them to live together. In a Quaker community, the community is paramount. From the start, they knew their choices had to forego preference in favor of what would sustain them. They had spent all they had to come to this place. There would be no moving on.