Last evening we were visited by Marvin Rockwell, one of the founding members of a Quaker group that movedCosta Rica during the Korean War. As Marvin tells the story, he’d served in the medical corps in World War II, but during the Korean War, he resisted the draft and ended up in prison in southern Alabama. Upon his release from prison, his family and six others sold everything and headed to Costa Rica to establish a settlement there. They chose Costa Rica because they had abolished their army. His story of the actual move was interesting, full of muddy set-backs and cross continental highways that ended and relocated whenever they happened upon a border. Once in Costa Rica they purchased a piece of land and began their settlement on April 19, 1951, naming it Monteverde, Green Mountain. Eventually this became the official name of the territory. They decided to begin a cheese company because 3 of the families had been dairy farmers. They purchased 50 guersneys and began making cheese using Quaker Oats cans for molds. In 1957 a couple brought a hydro-electric plant for use beginning their commitment to protecting the environment. They have gone from producing 50 pounds of cheese per day to 8,000 pounds per day.
In the new land, Marvin found his experience in the medical corps useful among local Costa Ricans with medical care so rare in their outback area. Forty-four people made up the initial Quaker membership, now there are 90. Marvin is 92, looks like 70.
He talked a little about Quaker values including pacifism, simplicity and equality which has its roots in the Quaker idea that there is that of God in everyone. Our group was impressed by his personal sincerity, his simple demure. I was delighted to present to him a picture of Brainerd Friends waving to his community.
Heading back to San Jose I asked Mareo about the cheerfulness and humor of the Costa Rican people. Are these folks just cheery because they are in the tourism business, I enquired. No, he said, their lightheartedness is the character of the people. Their national motto is Pura Vida which means “pure life” or “life is good”. What an attitude!
Driving along the country side I am noticing the fenceposts around the fields. They are sprouting branches and leaves. I ask Mareo about them. He said they just stick a branch from a particular tree, the gumbolimbo, in the ground and it will root. So rather than kill trees to build a fence, they prune branches from the tree and create a living fence to keep cattle in or crabby neighbors out. Oh, yeah, Costa Ricans aren’t crabby.