It is an enormous plain that extends from the base of the Talamanca Range in the east to the coasts of the Caribbean Ocean in the west.
This land of persistent rain is crossed by rivers both slow and mighty: The Colorado, Tortuguero, Parismina, Banano, Estrella, Pacuare, and Sixaola, in addition to a number of tributaries and small rivers.
The climate is hot, with year round temperatures between 24-31 degrees Celsius (75-88 degrees Fahrenheit). This, in combination with the humidity, caused by the close proximity to the ocean, and the rain, gave origin to the tropical rain forest.
These conditions have limited the amount of human settling to this region and have allowed a fascinating wealth of biodiversity and beauty to flourish. However, economic developments in the area have caused the increase of the human presence. The opening of the port in Limón responded to the need to export the coffee that is produced in the Central Valley. The activity from the port encouraged railroad construction, and later the development of the banana companies. Nevertheless, the flood of economic activity has continued to benefit the region
The railroad construction and banana activity encouraged the immigration of blacks from Jamaica and other Antilles islands, whose presence became important in the ethnic composition of the region, adding to the indigenous people, the migrant Chinese and Italians, and later to the arrival of the Panamanians and Nicaraguans. As a result, the diversity has changed the Caribbean population and has enriched their cultural traditions. Multiple languages have been created, with the predominant from English and Creole, also called patuá or mecateliu (make I tell you), together with bribri or cabécar.
In recent years, Europeans and North Americans have arrived, as well as a significant number of South Americans, in search of a more fulfilled life in contact with nature, and have settled in many of the tourist hot spots of the region.
The most populated regions are Guápiles, Siquirres, Matina, Cariari, and Guácimo, in addition to the Port of Limón. Some of the centers of tourism are located on the shores of the Caribbean in Tortuguero National Park, in the north, and Cauhita National Park, Puerto Viejo, Cocles, Punta Uva, and Manzanillo, in the south.
The crops produced in this region are primarily coco beans, bananas, corn, coconuts, and rice; also they raise cattle and fish.
The cocoa bean was the sacred bean of the indigenous villages and was used as money for commercial exchange for many years until Europe discovered the wonder of chocolate. Then it became an export product signaling a boom for the region. But in 1970, Monilia Pod Rot hit the plantations and caused the demise of the populations that had been dedicated to this crop, especially in the South Caribbean region
In all the Caribbean towns you can hear the music of Bob Marley, and icon of their culture, whose reggae translates many of the ideas and politics of another important figure to the Afro-Antilles population: Marcus Garvey, who worked in Limón for a decade around 1910, before traveling to the United States and becoming the leader and defender of the migrants that dreamed of returning to their ancestral Africa. For this purpose he created a shipping company, the Black Star Line, whose ships were supposed to brought these Africans back to their land. The business failed, but his legacy remained.
Reggae combined with calypso, music that combines simple stories with the rhythm of maracas and other artisan instruments, and Walter Ferguson, native of Cahuita, had been their most popular composer and pillar of the Caribbean music tradition.
The carnival, on the 12th of October, combines the sounds and colorful costumes of reggae with a party atmosphere, and is held every year to celebrate diversity.
It is also an opportunity to try all of the delicious food from the Caribbean: patí (a pastry filled with spicy meat, similar to an empanada), rice and beans, pan bom (sweet bread with fruit), and plantintá (sweet plantain empanadas with achiote) for example.
The Anglo-Saxon heritage brought from the Antilles has led to the presence of numerous protestant churches, which became popular with the negro population and which, with the passage of time, coexisted with Evangelicals, Baptists, Methodists, and Anglicans. The Catholic Church is also present in the Caribbean region, and although their following is mostly white, services are often offered in English.
The religion of the Caribbean people, however, has survived along with the presence of ancestral rituals; the magic, the music, and the stories of African legend. In recent years a multitude of sects have arrived whose ramifications have extended to the most remote indigenous populations, where still the primitive beliefs endure and the religion is associated with the harmony of the environment.
In Costa Rica there is not an abundance of literature that reflects the life of the Caribbean region, isolated for many years from the dominant culture of the Central Valley. But, it is worth mentioning some works and authors who interpreted the reality and particularities of this unique region and diversity through their stories.
Perhaps the most celebrated novel is “Mamita Yunai” (1941), by Carlos Luis Fallas, which reflects the labor disputes of the 40’s. A popular novel for kids, “Cocorí”, has been translated to many languages and published in different countries, was written by Joaquín Gutiérrez, born in the province of Limón, author of “Puerto Limón” (1950) and “Murámonos Federico” (1973).