In Costa Rica: Quakers of Monteverde

Barry and I had been in the Monteverde Cloud Forest 13 years ago and had attended a Friends meeting.  We wanted to go again to this special place with people who live their faith and who have had a huge impact on protection of the land.

It is easy and cheap to take the five-hour bus ride from the new 7/10 San José Bus Terminal to Monteverde.

Below:  waiting at the new terminal.

The roads are good except for about the last hour.  There has been much resistance to  paving the road into Monteverde (especially by the Quakers) since many of those living there who do not want more tourists to come.


On our way toward Monteverde

In 1951, U.S. Quaker families  moved to Monteverde, Costa Rica.  The eleven families from Alabama were seeking a country that would accept their pacifist Quaker stand against war.  Four young men from those families had been jailed for refusing to sign up for the U.S. Selective Service for the Korean War.  The U.S. judge who had sentenced the young men to jail had said that if they couldn’t follow the laws of the land, then they should find another country.  And so, some from this Quaker community sought another place to live.

In general, Quaker principles rest on simplicity, justice, equality, integrity, service, peace, community, and a view that the light of God is within each person.  Modern Friends vary in their traditions and practices, but they share common roots  in a Christian movement that arose in England in the middle of the 17th Century – especially in the writings of George Fox (1624-1691).


George Fox – “You can’t kill the devil with a sword or a gun” – from the Ballad of George Fox

Image from: <;

In 1948, Costa Rica had abolished its military (and still has none); the country wanted settlers to develop its land.  In its wind-swept cloud forest on the Continental Divide in the middle of Costa Rica,   Monteverde, at that time, was  accessible only by ox cart. The American Quakers came seeking a land where they could live in peace and practice their religion.

Together the U.S. Friends purchased 1500 hectares (about 3,707 acres) of land,  which they divided among the families; they helped each other in building houses, clearing the land of forests, introducing  dairy cattle, and farming.

In 1957, they built the main building of  Monteverde Friends School.   Today, it is a bilingual school serving the local community – both Quakers and local Costa Ricans – from pre-school through to high school.

Part of the land the Quakers purchased was used to set up a dairy farm;  the Monteverde Cheese Factory today produces over a ton of cheese a day.  That factory is now owned by a Mexican company; the ice cream store is now employee owned.  But until recently, these businesses were owned by the original Quaker families.

Early as a way to protect their water source, the community  made the far-sighted decision to set aside an area on the mountain slopes as virgin cloud forest – high altitude forest cooled by moist air from the Pacific.  This action was the beginning of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, which has become an international model for conservation.   The Quakers evolved from those who cleared the land and hunted to those who protected the forests and the animals and birds.

Information from:


Escuela de los amigos – Monteverde Quaker school and meeting house



At the entrance to the Sunday Friends meeting – Silencio


Quaker 6th graders from Philadelphia. They began the singing with “Lean on Me.”


The Ballad of George Fox <>.  When three or more gathering together – a Quaker meeting.

After singing for a half hour, we sat silently for about an hour.  It’s a silence of gratitude, of listening for the light of God, a silence of reflection.


Sunday Quaker meeting

After the silent meditation,  Danielle reported on the children’s discussion held during the adult meditation time.  She said the young students talked about what they could do during silent meditation time – besides staring at the back of someone’s head.  They considered being grateful.  Who are you grateful for?  Who has done something nice for you?  Who have you been nice to lately?  The older students discussed the concept of integrity.  What do you do when things aren’t clear?  How can you act with integrity in complicated situations?

Above photo on the left, Danielle giving the children’s reports.  On the right, an attender sharing her meditation insight.

After meeting, we enjoyed  a potluck lunch with the Quaker members, and then Barry and I joined in the Arthur M. Larabee Spirit-Led Decision-Making Workshop that was held in the afternoon.

The key concepts of Larabee’s lesson include: Listening beyond the self, separating personal preferences from what may be different right outcomes for the group, creating a climate of safety for all to speak candidly, uniting when possible, standing aside when appropriate, seeking unity.  The purpose of Quakers meeting and discussing ideas and plans is to seek unity and a way that will consider and respect each person’s ideas.

We had a wonderful, loving, thought-provoking several hours of singing, reflecting, meeting people, and considering Quaker ways.

I hope you will be able to visit the Monteverde Quakers too.

Amor y Luz – y Paz – Renée



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About reneeriley

Our blog was begun as a way to share our experiences in China. From August 2010 to July 2011, my husband, Barry Kristel, and I were at our University of Hawaii Maui College sister school, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University in Lin'an, China, a city considered rural because it has only 500,000 people! We had a wonderful time. Then in February 2012, we returned to teach this time at our other sister school, Shanghai Normal University, in a city of over 21 million people. We've made many discoveries. Did you know that now Chinese girls, at least the ones who go to university, for the most part feel they are luckier than the Chinese boys? Did you know that Shanghai saved over 20,000 European Jews during WWII? Do you know how Chinese university students would deal with problems that come up in Dear Abby letters? What's it like to be on the Great Wall of China? Do you know how many Chinese girls had their feet bound and why? And we have recipes from many of the places we've visited. Among others, you can find instructions on how to fry cicadas from one of my ZAFU students and how to make chocolate-Kahlua waffles from my brother Mike in Gainesville. You can also look back to our earliest entry to see what we experienced in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006 during the mainly peaceful six months of protest until the Mexican government sent in the troops. Between our stays in China, Barry and I have been on the Mainland U.S. visiting family, friends and Servas hosts as we traveled home to Maui. We share those experiences too. Welcome to our blog! Aloha and Zài Jiàn, Renée and Barry

2 responses to “In Costa Rica: Quakers of Monteverde”

  1. Rosita says :

    Hi, Renee,
    How can I teach Cleo to poop outside? She’s 4-years-old… Can adult dogs learn to poop outside? If yes, how can I teach Cleo? 🙂

  2. Rosita says :

    I sent you the link about both potcake dogs & extinct poi dogs. I didn’t sent you a link about BSDs, because there’s none link about them on Wikipedia 😦 but I can describe their appearance: they’re commonly medium-sized dogs, floppy-eared, with sable-like tails, thin bodies, usually with shorthaired fur, which can be in practically any color. BSDs are locally called as ‘vira-latas’, which means, literally, ‘scavengers’, in Portuguese. This term is pretty offensive, don’t you agree? It would be the same to call a multiracial person as scavenger due to its mixed heritage! And NOT all BSDs scavenge. To say the true, not all BSDs live on streets. Many of them have owners and are well cared for and never get out of home 🙂 it’s interesting to mention that BSDs remember potcake dogs. IDK if have had any approximation of the two breeds, but I might presume that yes, it occurred, even due to the proximity of Brazil with the Caribbean, as the Venezuelan islands, Martinique, Surinam, Guyana and French Guyana. so I presume that those dogs share both physical and genetic similarities. Do actually Hawaiian dogs remember old poi dogs? And how’s Hawaii climate in mid July?

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