The Quakers of Monteverde

In the 1948, four young Quaker men in Fairhope, Alabama declined to register for the draft. This was shortly after WWII, and feelings of national patriotism were running high.  To stand up for their beliefs at this particular point in time was an extremely courageous decision. 

The young men were sentenced to a short prison term, of which they served four months (one young man served a little longer).  Upon their release, the young men returned to Fairhope.  Along with their families and other members of their meeting, they began to discuss the possibility of leaving the United States and make the move to a less militarized country.  They considered several Central American countries, before eliminating them for various reasons. 

Costa Rica turned out to be the perfect choice.  The government was stable (the oldest democracy in Central America), the economy seemed sound, and the country had recently abolished its military.  In October 1950, a group left Fairhope to travel overland for the arduous journey to Costa Rica.  Over the next year or so, a total of 48 Fairhope Quakers arrived in Costa Rica.  More joined the group in Costa Rica later. 

Several locations were considered around the country, before they hit upon this mountaintop.  The group was able to purchase 3400 acres, and the community was established in mid 1951.  When you think about it, this was really an amazing undertaking.  Some may even say foolhardy.  Many of these people were not farmers back in the US.  There was no electricity, no telephones, no hospital, nor a school.  Plus, if you think the road up the mountain is bad now, can you imagine what it was like a half century ago?!  But they had a strong community and an even stronger will.  Eventually, the community thrived and became what you see today. 

Another interesting development from the Quaker influence here is the Monteverde Cloudforest Reserve.  The Quaker holdings at the very top of the mountain were originally set aside to preserve the watershed for the farms below.  This also preserved the delicate ecosystem that is a tropical cloud forest.  In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the area was discovered by biologists.  Eventually, the Cloud Forest Reserve was established.  This also marked the beginning of tourism in Monteverde.   Tourism is an important source of income for the community today. 

This is an extremely brief history of the Quakers in Monteverde.  If you should be fortunate enough to visit, look into picking up a copy of the “Monteverde Jubilee Family Album”.  This was published in 2001 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the community.  Drawn from old letters and personal recollections, this is the most comprehensive record of the history of this area.  Even if you don’t know a soul here, it still makes fascinating reading.  Except for the occasional mention of generators and jeeps, it reads like something from the homestead days of the US.  The later chapters refer to much more recent developments in the area, including local conservation efforts, and educational opportunities. 

Look for the light green soft bound book at the Reserve gift shop or in the book store in Santa Elena.