Costa Rica’s Quakers left U.S., still adapting to change

By Ryan Schuessler

MONTEVERDE, Costa Rica — Marvin Rockwell is a man full of stories.

Originally from Fairhope, Alabama, Rockwell, 92, gives presentations about his life almost every day of the week to students, tourists or anyone else who might be interested in Monteverde, a hamlet in the cloud forests of Costa Rica’s northwestern highlands. He takes his plastic sandwich bag of photos almost everywhere he goes. He knows the story behind each one.

He is the patriarch of a small diaspora of Americans who, more than six decades ago, left their country when they felt their religious values were in jeopardy. Their impact on this traditionally agricultural region was deep, and they are still a visible part of the community here.

But times are changing in Monteverde. A tourism boom that transformed the economy, changing climate, conservation efforts and modernization continue to mold the community into something many of the earliest Quakers wouldn’t recognize.

Yet the community has witnessed it all alongside their Costa Rican neighbors, and the institutions they created — such as a school — continue to be the some of the pillars in the region. Despite all the shifts and worries over the future, it still seems that you can’t tell the story of Monteverde without also recounting that of the Quakers from Fairhope.

Read more from Al Jazeera America

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