Marvin Rockwell and his wife at their home in the Monteverde Quaker Community described in Wikipedia.
In December, 2018, while on a Road Scholar trip to Costa Rica, we visited the home of Marvin Rockwell, age 96, for a typical Costa Rican dinner and a Power Point talk on how he came to lead a group of Quakers to Costa Rica in the late 1950’s. The talk included pictures of his adventures.Click for a podcast of pictures that Marvin showed us.
The family style dinner consisted of tamales, vegetables, tortillas, tomatoes,carrots, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, chocolate cake and the ever-present Pinto Gallo.(Black beans and rice served with every meal in every setting in Costa Rica.) There was no booze since this was a Quaker home.
We ate at a long table on the open porch of Marvin’s home in the highlands of Costa Rica, where Rockwell has lived since the early 50’s.
Marvin’s story, illustrated by his Powerpoint presentation, consisted of photos of his move to Costa Rica in the 50’s and his adventures since.
Marvin is a Quaker, originally from Fairhope, Alabama. In WW II, he served as a surgical teck in the US Army. In 1948, the US passed a draft law and Marvin, as a Quaker, refused to register. Even though he had already served in WW II, he was convicted of failing to register and sent to prison for a year and a day.
Since I originally wrote this, Fairhope, Alabama has been featured in the Travel Section of the New York Times. It seem Fairhope has a history consistent with what Marvin did in moving to Costa Rica. In 1894 “populist reformers” moved there from the North to establish an “…experimental, utopian community…” Traveling while old continues to be fascinating. I may have to visit Fairhope.
When he was released, he and his friends, searched for a new place to live and settled on Costa Rica which had just outlawed the military. They purchased a tract of land in the central part, away from the mosquitos of the coast, and 41 of them proceeded to move there. The move, in an old jeep and pick-up truck took 3 months, as Costa rica had little in the way of roads, and due to border technicalities .
They arrived, bought the land, compensated the Costa Rican squatters, and established a Quaker Colony which exists to this day. Five of the original 41, including Martin, are still alive.
They rebuilt the houses of the squatters and established s cheese factory with Martin in charge. They used metal Quaker Oats cans as cheese forms. The factory, still operating, now produces 8000 pounds of cheese a day.
Marvin, a bachelor, adopted a child abandoned by the child’s single mother. He then married a Costa Rican woman, and they had 4 more children.
Martin took pilot lessons, bought a piper airplane and started to build runway in Monteverdi. They cleared the land except for stumps. Then, while flying over the proposed runway almost crashed because of wind currents. They abandoned the airport idea, even though the approved runway was listed on aviation maps until recently when it was changed to abandoned.
Marvin wanted his children to be bilingual, so he moved to the US and became a chocolate salesman in Ohio ?? for 8 years so that his children, and his wife, became fluent in both English and Spanish. He then moved back to his home in Costa Rica, and except for trips to Africa in his 80’s, to see the animals, has lived in Costa Rica ever since.
He established a small hotel, which he has now closed.
He offers Powerpoint talks and dinners to various groups. He left our dinner at 7:30 as he had to give another talk that night.
In December, 2018, I visited the Ox Cart Factory in Sarchi, Costa Rica. It was established in 1923 and operates today much as it did then. Wheels were made with steel rims and were huge. The most interesting thing about the factory is that is was a pre-industrial revolution factory. The power for the line shaft came from a stream that flowed for 2 miles before turning a large waterwheel which in turn powered numerous belts throughout the factory. These belts ran all the machines in the factory including saws, drill presses and stamping machines.
They only make large ox carts today if specially ordered and they cost about $6000; however, they have a huge store with small ox carts for tourists and for tourist rides. They also sell comfortable rocking chairs which they ship to the US. Take a look at Costaricanmarket.com.
The history is set out in the Tico Times, the Costa Rican English language newspaper.
Well worth the trip just to see the waterwheel in operation.