Okay, so I had it wrong the first time, Limón is NOT in Peru, it is a province of Costa Rica. And no, I wasn’t thinking of Peru’s capital Lima, I honestly thought that there was also a Limón in Peru. Whatever. So here is a link of a map of Limón, where we were. I apologize that it is in Spanish, but the map itself is fairly self-explanatory… According to the last link, our group visited the purple area labeled No. 1: Limón, Limón.
We got to go through the rainforest to get to Limón, Limón. It was fascinating to watch as the vegetation around the road became more tropical. The provice of Limón is right on the Caribbean sea, so it was very warm. I liked it. There is a small island just off the coast of Puerto Limón (in the cantón of Limón, Limón) where Colombus landed on his third voyage to the Americas. There is also a native reservation the Bribri tribe in that area. For more information, click this link. There are also many tourist-y things about Limón that end up being a problem with the general population; for instance, Limón has the reputation throughout all of Costa Rica of being the “poor” district. The majority of the population in Limón are of African decent, and speak Spanish. The blacks are in the majority because they were the workers of choice for the construction of the railroad, as the Chinese immigrants and the Italians kept getting sick with the New World diseases. The blacks were actually imported from the island of Hispañola (Dominican Republic/Haiti) where they worked in the sugar cane fields to work in Costa Rica because they had been acclamated to the climate and to the diseases. Think of black ghettoes in the U.S. This is how Costa Ricans view Limón.
Our assignment as students was to go and talk to the people on the streets and ask them questions about racism, education, and government. Everyone that my group interviewed said that there was no racism in Limón, because there was such diversity. Even if gringos weren’t that common, we were (according to the locals) less likely to be mugged/robbed/etc. in Limón than in any other part of Costa Rica. There are still many Italian-Costa Ricans in the area, and even Chinese-Costa Ricans. But still, the majority are the African-Costa Ricans. We also asked about pobreza, which means poverty and how the locals defined it and what they thought would be a good solution. One gentleman we asked said that education was the answer to poverty, and most of the others said that more opportunities were the answer. We even met a hippie selling jewelry on the street who said that the Costa Rican government was to blame for the poverty in Limón because they put more money into making the tourist sites on the coast more attractive than they spend on cleaning up the cities. There were no public trash cans in the small town where we stayed. Instead, there were heaps of trash on the street corners or by vegetable stands. To walk on the sidewalk usually meant finding the cleanest path through the rubbish.
It was a fascinating trip, and yes, I am darker still. My host family told me today that I look Dominican. I’ll take that as a compliment, thank you : )
Also, on Saturday night, the professors hired a band to come and play for us while we ate traditional food of the Caribbean, and we all learned to salsa! I guess I already knew how to salsa, but I thought there was more to the dance. I learned, however, that all Caribbean dances are the same steps, just variations depending on the music. The boys all stood around awkwardly, while the girls learned the steps and danced with each other. Soon, the girls started pulling the boys to the dance floor and teaching them the steps. It was like junior high dances, but with college students. Very funny.
More later on banana plantations, mono-cultures, pineapples, and eco-friendliness…