The communities of Caribe Sur have experienced rapid change in just a few short decades.

Many aspects of their culture and identity are threatened by the pressures of development, environmental conservation, and globalization. Inequality, crime and poverty are increasing in tandem with land insecurity, and efforts to stabilize land tenure face many hurdles - the most basic of which is a lack of meaningful access to reliable information about the history, rights, and legal processes affecting local residents.


Photo Credit: dimnikolov

Confronting a lack of access to information

Lack of access to information in the southern Caribbean is a consequence of several factors, including a lack of historical documentation regarding the area's people, a threat to existing documentation and information, a lack of formal documentation of local tenancy and livelihood rights, and the lack of neutral and reliable legal information.  

Reacting to an urgent threat of knowledge loss

Like many communities of the Afro-descendent diaspora, the history of the Talamanca coast is largely recounted through oral history. Moreover, in the tropical climate of coastal Talamanca, paper photographs and historical documents are particularly vulnerable to the physical, chemical and biological forces that speed up deterioration processes.With the loss of elders who are willing to preserve and pass  along oral histories, cultural memories will vanish unless an active effort is made to preserve them.  

 

Photo Credit: Mitya Ku

Addressing tenure insecurity and sustainable development

The Talamanca region is one of Costa Rica’s most biologically and culturally diverse, yet it also has the lowest GDP and human development indicators as well as growing problems with drug trafficking and its associated social impacts. These challenges are closely connected to the ongoing state of tenure insecurity faced by residents over the past several decades. Community-based attempts to stabilize property ownership and protect legitimate ownership rights are burdened by a host of complex factors: corruption and poor governance, language and education barriers, and the involvement of extreme pro-conservation and pro-development interests, to name just a few.

Responding to an increase of poverty and inequality

Costa Rica is often considered a model of conservation-oriented sustainable governance. The country has dedicated vast swaths of land to this cause and, indeed, eco-tourism has played a central role in Costa Rica’s high human development index ranking and relative economic and social stability.  However, structural inequalities, discrimination, and government corruption that benefits wealthier outsiders over low-income locals has had complex and often negative effects on the local Afro-Caribbean and rural communities of Caribe Sur.

Photo Credit: Peter Hellberg

Recognizing the legal invisibility of a particularly vulnerable group within the community

Afro-Caribbean residents of the southern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica have suffered the inequalities of globalization with particular force. Considered an "invisible" community by the United Nations, structural inequalities often determine their ability to pursue dignified livelihoods and enjoy their rights to self-determination.