A few weeks ago, one of my friends from university, Gilberto, uploaded an Instagram story of him working on a few cooking items. He is a local chef based in Costa Rica, and he was working with the seed of the tree that named the region where it grows, the Guanacaste tree. Gilberto was boiling and peeling them to make a powder to use as gluten-free flour for his brownie recipe, this kind of work with local ingredients has been around for several years but recently the community and the local product focus on gastronomy have given a newfound impulse to the region.
That’s why I decided to contact another friend of mine, Rolando, who spent the last year in Coco Beach. Rolando is a costarican graphic designer and had the chance to escape from the capital city to work from the northern coastal region for a whole year, changing the busy streets for peaceful sunsets. He told me about his experience living in the area, describing it as a “constant connection.” Back in San Jose he told me he is trying to get used to city life again, but when he was in Coco, a short walk to the beach to watch the sunset was everything he needed to forget about work and have some rest for the rest of the day.
Rolando was looking for the right place to work; he wanted to be located by the coast with some facilities to get his job done. He needed an inspiring place to live fulfilling his basic needs: a safe environment, internet access, closeness to natural areas, and facilities like shops, banks, and drugstores. Rolando was familiar with the zone but not as much as he wanted, so exploring nearby beaches with beautiful sunset views, the sea sound, and taking a break from the Great Metropolitan Area were enough reasons to draw him to that idyllic scenery of Guanacaste coastline.
I was curious about how this area attracts people from outside to experience an escape from the cities and the things they know, to make their daily jobs an enjoyable part of a natural canvas. Rolando told me he wants to return to Coco Beach, for work, as a vacation, as a place to live even.
An element of this constant connection commented by Rolando reminded me of the work of Chefs in the area that rely on the great work of farmers, fishers, and cooks to draw attention to each other’s products and create financial benefits based on the local economy. That is why I asked Gilberto about the people he is working with as a Chef; just like me, he enjoys listening to stories firsthand from the people involved in them.
He is currently working on a personal project at a national level: Holy Crust, a zero-waste farm-to-table pizza made with fresh and local ingredients produced by local people. He handed me his contact list, those who he kindly call: mi people, a little Spanglish slang for those who he considers his people, his family; names like Yamilet, Don Miguel, Ilda, Tin, and many others were part of this list, I could feel the sense of community they have created through their products. I could feel how this connection encouraged him to stay there a little longer, foraging to find unique and uncommon ingredients like the Guanacaste seed, which is not conventional for local gastronomy but is an inherent part of the local identity.
In the middle of the pandemic, I got to know the initiative Guanacaste Strong, with all the economic struggles that it brought to rural towns, the network of different artists, chefs, and creators Gilberto is part of, with help of locals and nonlocals who became part of the community. The idea is giving back in return to this magical place, in partnership with “Juntos Por Guanacaste”, a coalition of NGOs that are directed by community members and people from around the country aimed to fund different projects looking for benefiting the region development, and another related and exciting project called “Costa Rica Regenerativa” aimed to create a network of interconnected initiatives that improves the natural conditions in the region, bringing economic benefit to small communities, building wealth based on local production and consumption of different fresh products and sustainably grown meats, environmental education, regenerative tourism and over 17 areas of work.
For years now the coast of Guanacaste allures people from all around the world looking for a calm place to escape from cities and the routines, besides being one of the most representative areas of the costarican traditional gastronomy and culture. Developments in the region have encouraged people to keep on exploring the local elements that compound the identity of local communities, connecting with residents and foreigners to create exciting ways in which creativity and a sense of reciprocity come to work.
“I want to return because of how easy it is to connect with the surroundings”, said Rolando; we were speaking about these initiatives, food, and some stories. He told me a funny story where he asked a girl for directions, but he could not identify if she was local or a foreigner. He was impressed by how good this person knew the area and her kindness by giving him some tips and pieces of advice. It seemed to him that she was fully part of the community.
The northern pacific coast of Costa Rica is transforming into a place for community, creation, and opportunities; through local initiatives seeking to attract passionate people, and professionals like Gilberto looking for this sense of involvement, and Rolando who wanted an exciting place to work and discover.
I have no wonder why even national residents decide to invest their time, knowledge, creativity, and hard work to create and develop this sense of community. And with direct new flight connections between countries like the States to Liberia airport in Guanacaste is getting even easier to become part of one of the most unique regions of the pacific coast of Costa Rica.