The Unsavvy Traveler – Saving The Guaymi

unsavvytravelerbook.jpgGuatemala has Rigoberta Menchú and, in the northern rainforests, rebel guerrillas. In Honduras, Maya ruins line the cobblestone footpaths of Copán. Nicaragua has the legacy of its Sandinista uprising and a clan of rebellious poets who live out the revolution’s ideals on the communal Solentiname Island. And Costa Rica? Costa Rica, the fashionable gringo gripe goes, well, Costa Rica is just the tropics. It is beautiful landscape but nothing more. It has no revolutionary heroes and no oppressive military. Unlike its Central American neighbors, Costa Rica has no narrative of subjugation, no tragic struggle for independence, and thus (from the school of thought that misery + strife = art), Costa Rica has no culture. And even worse, I’ve heard many an expatriate lament, there are no indigenous people.

But in the southeastern corner of the country, at the border with Panama, there is a crescent beach whose name is a Spanish word for mosquito. Here, the rocky black sand will cut your feet and the heat will bake your wounds. And if you continue on into the jungle and hike five miles uphill through mud that pulls at your ankles like quicksand, you will come to a land inhabited only by indigenous people. For a few days in November 1995, they came out to greet a group of visitors, but after our stay I imagine they’ve become more guarded with their hospitality.

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