The first thing I saw getting off the ship in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica was a sign that said “Costa Rica, Since 1048, No Army.” I saw that repeated on T shirts and other souvenirs, I half expected to see it on the license plates. Costa Rica abolished its army and put the money into schools, health and welfare. As a result it’s consistently had one of the best standards of living in Central America. As a side benefit there have been none of the military coups that have plagued its neighbors. It’s stable and democratic. We saw a lot of signs of an impending election campaign in our day in Limon.
Puerto Limon is kind of an outlier for Costa Rica. She is poorer than her sister provinces economically but richer in cultural diversity. Limon is on the Caribbean coast and has a large population of Afro-Caribbean folk, mostly Jamaican who migrated to work on the fruit plantations. It also has a Chinese population, who worked on building the narrow gauge railroad that carries bananas, pineapples and coffee to port from the plantations and connects Limon with the Capital San Jose. And of course there are Latino Spanish speaking Costa Ricans. Until 1948 the Jamaican population could only live in this province. While now they have full citizenship and are free to live anywhere in Costa Rica this is a center for Afro-Caribbean culture. Walking through the streets of Limon you hear music coming from every store, reggae, salsa, hip-hop, canzone. The smells coming from the stalls are rich, pleasant and evocative. The fresh pineapple is wonderful. People are friendly. One old “Grandfather” came up to us in the park to point out a mama and baby sloth hanging from a branch and two owls with yellow coloring. (Their pictures are in the post “Sloths, Crocs and Herons.”) He was proud to show them off in the city park, not only to us, but to any other visitors who walked by. I know what you may be thinking, but he was not looking for a tip, he was looking to make us happy. And he did.