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How were Monteverde before the Quakers arrived in 1951 and what existed in the area?
During the years 1888 at only 8km from Santa Elena the mining of gold had already begun in Turín, managed by a Canadian company using workers from Juntas de Abangares and neighbouring villages, like the Juntas and Guacimal mines the neighbouring villages were inhabited until 1919.
During these times the money that was earned was used to support the famil. The gold that was mined was sold, in the most part, to Canada and Germany. What is now Monteverde was just pure rainforest in these times without any routes and it is said that this was used as a route for indigeouns colonies; known as Corobicies, Chorotegas, and Huétar. In the 1940 the Monteverde areas started to become colonizad by Costa Ricans, like Virgilio Rojas who was a landowner.
The old name of Monteverde was “Espinero”. Gradually more and more people arrived to the area of San Luis such as Eloy Méndez Chacon and then Ramón Leiton, Santiago Ramírez, Rafael Arguedas, Carmen Méndez vai the area which is now knowm as Cañitas, a some more. But how did they arrive? They arrived making there way through the rainforests whilst they were hunting, the suprime was when they found other people doing the same and it so by the 50’s there were about 10 families who inhabited houses that were made from Burio tree trunks and Herat of palm straw. This was how the first church was built which is now called the Escuela Rafael Arquedas, 10 years later, in the 60’s they built another one in the village of Santa Elena.
They ate what they grew such as, bananas, sugar cane, beans, corn, potatoes and others. During these times a loto f the land did not have an owner, so the inhabitants marked the land that they wanted opening up routes through the rainforests using their machetes.
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In 1975 there was still land without any owners. In 1951 after a long period of three months the Quakers arrived in the Pacific and found a green area full of rainforest and pedestrian footpaths and it would be were they would stay forever, they named it Monteverde, which was changad from was was originally “Espinero”; the economy began to be different, as the main mode of transport was on horseback which were bought for ¢ 25 colones. This was in the area of Guacimal some 20 kilometeres from Monteverde which for a long time was used by the miners to carry material. As time passed the first vehicle was able to arrive towed most of the way by a wincher from Lagarto, which was fixed to the trees. The first tractor became a novelty for the inhabitants and the felling of the forest became easier, opening up areas with a machetes soon became history, as people began to use chainsaws, where they were able to collect pasture to feed cattle.
The first inhbaitants had already felled part of the rainforest to sow, buying their first cattle in Cartago, a place with a similar climate to these areas as this is how the cheese factory in 1953 becamse established. The first electricity in Monteverde was produced by Rubén Rowell and was generated with a type of Apelton Wheel that was moved by the flow of water close to the community of San Luis, and the first telephone where you would be able to tell who was calling or which house it was for by the cables or the amount of times it rang. These projects came to be in 1952 and 1953 during the same time that the cheese factory was also established. The school with the name of “Escuela de los Amigos,” “School of Friends,” was built in 1957. The conservation of the rainforest started in 1975 and 1975. It is now one of the most visited tourist areas of the country for nationals and foreigners alike. It has a population of 6000 inhbaitants. (Courtesy of: Historias Lodge, por Luis Emilio Brenes Tel (506) 2645-6914.)
A brief account of the History of the Quakers.
The Monteverde Foundation’s history begins in Alabama. Four Quakers where imprisoned after refusing to join the American Army. Once liberated that began to look for a place to live in peace. After visiting Canada, Mexico and Central America they decided on Costa Rica. They were attracted to the peaceful politics and the fact that it had no army. They chose the area of Monteverde because of its pleasant climate and its fertile lands, and because the price of land at the time was relatively low. With men, women and children from 11 families a total of 44 settlers arrived in Monteverde in 1951; the majority arrived by plane from San José, and the rest arrived in trucks loaded with their belongings from Alabama. The road to Monteverde was only for Ox Carts. They bought 1.500 hectares, where they began to produce milk from cows and make cheese. The initial production of this dairy was 10 kilos a day. Today, the modern factory produces more than 1.000 kilos a day. The route from the Interamerican via the Lagarto Bridge is not paved. The route via Sardinal is 15km of paved road until you reach Monteverde. The majority of the inhabitants speak English as well as Spanish and before the Peaceful Group arrived the area was populated by a few rural families, such as the family of Giovanni Arguedas, owner of El Sapo Dorado Hotel, whose grandparents where some of the first to inhabit the area. Cerro Plano is where you will find several hotels to suit all budgets. The Santa Elena reserve is 5Km to the northeast of the village.