Introducing The Atlantic Slope
The idea was simple: build a port on the Caribbean coast and connect it to the Central Valley by railroad, thereby opening up important shipping routes for the country’s soaring coffee production. Construction began in 1871, through 150km of dense jungles and muddy mountainsides along the Atlantic slope. It took almost two decades to build the railroad, and the first 30km reportedly cost 4000 men their lives. But when the last piece of track was laid down in 1890, the transformation it unleashed permanently changed Costa Rica (and the rest of Central America, for that matter). It was the dawn of the banana boom, an industry that would dominate life, politics and the environment in the region for almost a century.
Today, the railroad is no longer. An asphalt highway (Hwy 32) – through Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo – links San José to the Caribbean coast, winding down the foothills of the Cordillera Central, through agricultural plantations to the swampy lowlands around Limón. Likewise, banana production is not as mighty as it once was, supplanted in many areas by pineapples and African oil palms.