Sarapiqui Conservation Learning Center
Chilamate is the general name for this region. The community originated in the ‘30s and ‘40s, and the school was constructed in 1963. Although it is the oldest of our target communities, many of its inhabitants complain that there is not much of a sense of community. The houses are spread out along the highway and there is no town "center." Current projects include improvements to the cemetery and church, and completion of a sidewalk.
The community of El Roble has its origins in 4 distinct fincas (large farms): Kay Rica, Lake, Bufalo and Tirimbina, although Tirimbina is outside of the SCLC’s target area. In 1981, due to problems with owners of the various fincas, squatters (mostly from San Carlos) seized the land and eventually gained legal title from IDA (the Costa Rican Institute for Agrarian Development). El Roble consists of medium-sized parcels of land (~10 ha. or 24.7 acres) used for black pepper, yuca, pineapple, cattle, and reforestation. The community has a Catholic church, an elementary school, various evangelical churches, a development association, a women’s group, and a pepper-growers' cooperative. Some of their current projects are improvements to the bridge that links El Roble to the rest of the region, the erection of a fence around the plaza, the electrification of some of the most isolated areas, and a greenhouse for organic agriculture at the elementary school.
El Progreso is the first neighborhood that was founded as the result of the seizing of another finca by squatters in the early 1990s. All of what is today El Progreso, La Esperanza, Loma Linda, and Linda Vista were part of finca Gerika, which was owned by an American drug-runner. In 1993, the authorities removed the squatters from the land and there was even violent conflict over who held possession rights. In January of 1994, the neighborhood of El Progreso was founded legally and the land was divided into lots, although some community members still own a parcel of land apart from the lot where their houses are. The majority of the families depend in one form or another on the banana companies, although there are also some small businesses. There is an elementary school and plaza and there is a currently inactive development association and women’s group. There is a group working to gain potable water, and a computer lab was recently donated to the elementary school.
La Esperanza and Loma Linda
These two neighborhoods are similar to El Progreso in that they were both part of the finca Gerika and are made up of small lots, although some people also have parcels. They are smaller than El Progreso and do not have as many services. The majority of the workers are employees of the banana and pineapple plantations and there is a large population of Nicaraguan immigrants. Neither community has an elementary school, plaza, or Catholic church, although there are some evangelical churches and a Lutheran church. Both communities have small development associations and have been working to extend the sidewalk, build more bus stops, and obtain potable water. The waste dump for the majority of the region is located in the outskirts of La Esperanza.
Linda Vista/Parcelas de Gerika
This area also originated in the seizing of the finca Gerika, but consists mostly of agricultural parcels with cattle, yuca, pineapple, plantain, and other crops. There is a small elementary school, with one teacher who teaches 1st to 6th grade. The majority of community projects focus around the school, but they are also working to construct a bridge over the Bijagual River to connect the most distant areas of the community. This community links the Selva Verde Reserve and the famous La Selva Biological Research Station (Organization of Tropical Studies), and border the Sarapiqui River, making it an important community for biodiversity.
Rancho Chilamate also originated from a land dispute. In 1988, the German owners of the finca Rancho Chilamate went bankrupt and did not pay their workers. The workers took it upon themselves to divide the land into parcels and found a community. Between 1988 and 1991, there were various violent conflicts over control of the land and today it is an IDA protected community, even though the community still does not have legal title. There is a plaza, elementary school, and a Catholic church. The majority of the agricultural parcels have fruits, vegetables, cattle, peach palm, heart of palm and/or other crops. Some of their current projects are the installation of a sewage system, the construction of bus stops, and improvements to the dirt/rock road.