During my trip to Límon, I felt more excitement and enthusiasm for the culture than I have when visiting Manuel Antonio, visiting Monteverde or living in Heredia. The atmosphere reminded me of New Orleans, Louisiana. When first entering the province, I immediately noticed the splashes of color everywhere I looked. These splashes continued throughout the excursion, including the coral reef. Similar to New Orleans, Límon offers a wide variety of food and music, most importantly fresh food and live music. Almost everywhere we ate there was a wait for the food, and once it reached my mouth, I could taste the hot reminisce of a home cooked meal. During this excursion, I was able to feel pride for a culture that I was not a part of, a pride in being an honored guest partaking and experiencing such a vibrant culture. Unlike New Orleans, the main tourist areas are not dominated by the Afro-descent people, for many of the shops and business owners are white or fair skinned. Nonetheless, we were still able to experience live Calypso music at Tamara’s and eat authentic Caribbean dishes, including rondon (a traditional Caribbean soup made from a collection of vegetables, fish, and coconut milk). And, at this restaurant, it seemed that all the servers, cooks, and managers were of Afro-Caribbean descent. Although the Afro-Caribbean population is not as visually prevalent as it is spoken about, you can feel and taste a different culture while being in Límon.
“Street art in Parque Vargas, Límon” – April Vollmer 2018
Aside from the Afro-caribbean culture I was expecting, we were also privileged to explore into a cacao farm that although owned by an estadounidense, still relies on and gives much capital, both monetary and social, to the indigenous population of Costa Rica. While touring the cacao farm, the owner continuously talked about the workers not only as laborers, but also as consultants with hundreds of years of expertise passed down from generation to generation. In addition, each batch of chocolate products made from a specific head farmer is sold with said farmer’s name on the label, further giving credit where credit is due. Another fantastic provision, is that the owner will buy each head farmers cacao product at the highest market rate possible, and the owner also recognizes that each head farmer may begin their own business if given the right resources. Unexpectedly, we walked up to four men working on fermenting newly harvested cacao beans as well as collecting the seeds to be dried and later processed. All men were of indigenous descent, showing and explaining to us the processes they were working on and what methods they were using. It was a delight! After walking through a greenhouse drying cacao beans and giving us the delicious smells awakening our stomachs to cravings for chocolate, we finally reached the top of the farm where the cacao seeds are processed into the sweet, yummy chocolate we all know and love. Not only did we try the cacao, but we learned plenty about how we reached this point in the chocolate making process. It was a wonderful way to spend the day!
“Cacao beans of different sub-species” – April Vollmer, 2018
I believe one of the biggest takeaways was also how similar being in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca was in comparison to other tourists locations. I say this in terms of overall feelings of safety and security, as Límon is portrayed as being the “bad” part of Costa Rica, most likely due to its Afro-Caribbean population. Even though the media may make out this area to be more dangerous, I felt no less safe walking the streets during the day or night time. I was given no less kindness, if not more, than when staying in Monteverde, Tamarindo, Manuel Antonio, or my home here, Heredia. I feel this is a world-wide issues– labeling more “black” or “dark-skinned” areas as being more dangerous, unsafe, and places to avoid; the reality is every place in the world has spots to avoid and those you can enjoy more carefree. I hope the increase tourism in Límon allows for more awareness and advocacy for the province as being similar, but distinct in culture, just as every other province in Costa Rica. Nonetheless, the impact of gentrification should also be considered, as more and more tourists, Europeans, and even other Latinos begin to purchase land, the local Afro-Caribbean population begins to be pushed more and more to less touristy areas and forced to live in different, less seen areas.