Introducing Southern Caribbean
The southern coast is the heart and soul of Costa Rica’s Afro-Caribbean community. Jamaican workers arrived in the middle of the 19th century to build the railroad and then stayed on to serve as labor for United Fruit. After the banana industry began its decline in the 1920s, government-mandated segregation kept the black community here. For more than eight decades, they existed independently of the rest of Costa Rica, managing subsistence farms, speaking English and Mekatelyu, eating spicy Caribbean gumbos and swaying to the beat of calypso. Although the racial borders fell in 1949, the local culture still retains its unique traditions.
Also in this area, to the interior, are some of the country’s most prominent indigenous groups – cultures that have managed to remain intact despite several centuries’ worth of incursions, first from the Spanish, later from the fruit industry and currently from the globalizing effects of tourism. They principally inhabit the Cocles/Kèköldi, Talamanca Cabécar and Bribrí indigenous territories.
Naturally, this fascinating cultural bubble wouldn’t remain isolated forever. Since the 1980s the southern coast has seen the arrival of surfers, backpackers and adventurous families on holiday – many of whom have stayed, adding Italian, German and North American inflections to the cultural stew. For the traveler, it is a rich and rewarding experience – with lovely beaches to boot.