Cultureshock! Costa Rica (Cultureshock Costa Rica: A by Claire Wallerstein

By Claire Wallerstein

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Additional resources for Cultureshock! Costa Rica (Cultureshock Costa Rica: A Survival Guide to Customs & Etiquette)

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When coffee prices rose after World War II, dozens of countries rushed to plant coffee, the world’s second biggest dollar commodity after oil. Supply soon outstripped demand and prices went into a free fall from which they have never really recovered. Many farmers complain that the cost of producing coffee is more than what they earn from it. Hundreds of fields have been ripped out and today, the crop only covers 2 per cent of the land, while San José’s rapid growth has permanently cemented over what were once some of the country’s most fertile coffee lands.

Overview of the Land and History 17 land offered to anyone who would grow the crop. Coffeegrowing spread rapidly in the Meseta Central, which offered the perfect combination of altitude, climate and fertile volcanic soil. Things didn’t fully take off until an English merchant, William Le Lacheur, docked his empty ship in the Pacific port of Puntarenas in 1843 looking for cargo to take home. Although Le Lacheur couldn’t pay up front, some producers entrusted him with their crop on credit. London loved the coffee, Le Lacheur returned in 1845 with the proceeds, and in that year alone 29 ships transported Costa Rican beans to Europe.

Isla Uvita, where Christopher Columbus first set foot on Costa Rican soil, is just offshore. ’ asked Paul Theroux in The Old Patagonian Express, going on to say 44 CultureShock! Costa Rica that Limón smelt of ‘dead barnacles and damp sand, flooded sewers, brine, oil, cockroaches, and tropical vegetation which, when soaked, gives off the hot moldy vapour you associate with compost heaps in summer’. Limón’s reputation as dirty and rough is rather unfair, but no one can deny it has been somewhat neglected since the banana boats shifted to the nearby, deeper natural harbour at Moín.

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