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|Democracy & Coffee|
Wealthy landowners and aristocracy ...
Liberty is always unfinished business.
~ American Civil Liberties Union slogan You get a proper cup of coffee in a copper coffee pot.
~ popular English tongue-twister
You get a proper cup of coffee in a copper coffee pot. ~ popular English tongue-twister
Carrillo imposed liberal reforms and revised anachronistic civil and penal codes. He withdrew from the Central American Federation, which Costa Rica had joined in 1824, and also paid off the “English debt,” Costa Rica’s share of a debt incurred by the failed Federation. His greatest legacy, however, was his strong promotion of coffee production throughout the Central Valley. He gave free trees to the populace to plant in their yard, and offered free land to anyone who would grow coffee on it. Carrillo returned as the country’s first dictator when a successor tried to roll back his reforms, but his despotic ways did not sit well with the now democratic country. Exiled to El Salvador in 1842, he was assassinated there three years later.
Fortunately, Carrillo’s agrarian efforts had insured Costa Rica was well positioned on Christmas Day, 1843, when the English captain, William Le Lacheur, sailed into Puntarenas looking for cargo. Growers in San José, with plenty of coffee to sell, trusted him with their goods on consignment. Two years later Le Lacheur returned with plenty of pounds sterling – the beginning of direct trade, an economic relationship with England, and the first good times for Costa Rica.
Coffee, one critic observed, “became a religion instead of a mere crop.” If there was no big class difference before, the rise of an aristocacia cafetalera changed all that. Coffee gained the nickname grano de oro, or “grain of gold.” The coffee boom brought coffee barons, wealth and development to ports such as Puntarenas and Puerto Limón, roads and railways, and new hospitals and schools. But a monocrop and consequent monoculture breeds its own set of financial and social problems.
For the first time a privileged class system, based on coffee profits, emerged. In 1847, Congress named as the first president José María Castro Madriz, a 29-year-old editor and publisher. His wife, Doña Pacifica, designed the national flag. But his reforms met opposition from the powerful coffee barons and he was replaced. When the country’s second president, Juan Rafael Mora Porras, tried to open a state bank to provide favorable credit to small farmers, the coffee elite greedily squelched his reforms as well.
For many years, brightly painted oxcarts carried the precious bean down from the mountains to the Pacific port of Puntarenas. However, the coffee oligarchy realized that in order to stay competitive the country needed better access to the Atlantic. In 1871, to finance a new rail route to Limón, a deep-water shipping port on the Atlantic side, the government borrowed $8 million dollars from England. But when coffee prices hit bottom in 1900 it caused a severe food shortage and famine and the unfavorable financial terms of the loan hobbled the country’s economy for 40 years.
The origin of coffee lies in the legends and myths of Africa and the Middle East. One story tells of Kaldi, an Ethiopian goatherd who found his animals eating at a dark-leaved shrub bearing red berries. Another legend attributes the discovery of coffee to Omar, an Arabian dervish exiled to the African wilderness. He survived by brewing the berries he picked from coffee bushes. Whoever discovered it, coffee is considered native to Ethiopia.
By the early 1500s, coffee had made its way around the Middle East, and Arab patrons of coffeehouses lingered over the sweetened black brew. These early coffeehouses introduced the drink to European traders, who recognized it as a potential crop for their various tropical colonies. But the Arabs prevented the Europeans from taking live bushes in order to keep their monopoly. The Dutch finally obtained a coffee plant from Yemen and began cultivating coffee commercially in 1616.
Sacks of beans labeled from plantations in one of their East Indian colonies, gave rise to one of coffee’s best-known nicknames, “Java.” The credit for introducing coffee to the New World goes to Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu, a French naval officer. In 1720, he sailed for the French colony of Martinique with three coffee seedlings, obtained under highly questionable circumstances. Becalmed en route, de Clieu shared his water ration with the seedlings. His sacrifice paid off. Once planted on his estate in Martinique, the bushes flourished. From there, coffee cultivation spread to other countries in the New World. Costa Rica ranks 11th in world production and exports 280 million pounds of top-quality beans.
Live, Retire, Relocate to Costa Rica Book by Christopher Howard
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