In the wake of tropical storm Nate, the small community of Monteverde, Costa Rica came together to show what they are made of.
For five days, after being devastated by high winds and torrential rains, this community was without water, electricity, and communications. Add to this the lack of roads that once connected them to neighboring communities and to the rest of the world and one would think of them as being isolated. However, the people of this community, both Tico and Gringo, came together to form a cohesive unit that refused to accept the uncertainties of isolation.
I left Texas in April of 2016 to retire someplace peaceful. That is what I had found in Monteverde, but I never thought that I would face this kind of weather. I sat in the dark on that first night after the storm; at first uncertain of how alone I might be. When you are older and don’t get around well you wonder if anyone cares or if you might have just been forgotten and abandoned by others. Then, with no light to guide the way, knock after knock on my door continued to produce joy in my heart.
“Just checking on you, Mary.” I heard these words over and over.
“Do you have everything you need? Do you have enough water to drink? Do you have food?” These words came in both English and in Spanish as neighbor after neighbor stopped to make sure I was okay. So many stopped, each one calling me by name, until I lost count of how many neighbors cared.
The love continued even after utilities and communications were restored. Community members distributed water, milk, groceries, and other needed items to those who were unable to get to the local distribution center at the Monteverde Institute. Needed items, provided by the Red Cross and collected donations from drop points across the country, were flown in by helicopter. Those who were unable to attend meetings, designed to keep residents informed and to gather information, were visited daily with updates. Neighbors looked after neighbors and the love overflowed.
Monteverde, Costa Rica is visited by many tourists every year. People come here to indulge in the beauty of nature and the adventures that go with it. They visit the numerous nature reserves, go on a variety of tours, eat at restaurants serving authentic Tico foods, and browse galleries and gift shops all over Monteverde and Santa Elena.
Perhaps, however, tourists are looking for the wrong things when they visit. Of course, everyone wants to see the beauty of the forest and enjoy the wildlife, but to take the time to visit with the people here could prove more satisfying than getting dozens of photographs of all the different species of wildlife.
Monteverde is made up of people from around the world; people who have learned from the Ticos how to relax and enjoy life. The first to come, the founders of the town of Monteverde, were a small group of Quakers from the USA back in the early 1950s. Among these is a man who came, loved the country and its people, then met and married a Tica, and lived happily ever after.
Marvin and his wife Florie are a beautiful couple in their late 80s. Yes. They are still here. With the help of a granddaughter, they run a little Tico restaurant next to La Colina Lodge. Unlike other Tico restaurants, at Flor Mar to Go you can sit and eat an authentic Tico meal while listen to the fascinating story of how Monteverde came to be, told by one of the original founders.
What I’m saying is this: when coming to visit this beautiful mountain community indulge yourself in what makes Monteverde real. Get to know the people. Experience the love and peace that is the true appeal of an already beautiful location. If you do this you will truly learn the meaning of Costa Rica’s motto … Pura Vida.
MJ Henry (Mary Henry Lick) is a US expat living in Monteverde.