What I love about traveling is coming across places I would never back home in the US. While on a white water rafting trip with Dominical Surf Adventures we stopped in El Silencio, a town only accessed by a rock strewn dirt road thirty minutes from the main highway.
There I learned that El Silencio is a co-operative town residing on a former banana plantation that once belonged to the United Fruit Company (now known as Chiquita). When the plantation was ruined by flooding in 1955, local farmers took over and began to work the vacated land until it was sold to them by the government.
The farmers and their families created Coopsilencio, which has grown to 80 families since the 1970s. Now the co-op farms African Palms for the oil that is processed from the palm’s fruit. They also run a dairy farm, reforestation project and wildlife rescue program.
The co-operative even has their own money, the UDIS, which is valued the same as the Costa Rican colón. Workers of the co-op receive 20% of their pay in UDIS, which can be used to purchase goods and services in the town.
According to International Co-operative Alliance a co-operative is “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.”
In the case of El Silencio, the co-operative encompasses the town and plantation. I have come across co-op grocery stores, apartments, banks, and businesses, but this is my first community.
If you are interested in traveling to Costa Rica or would like to check out the co-operative lifestyle then make sure to visit El Silencio. They have a volunteer program offering a chance to experience life living and working with the community.
What are your thoughts on cooperatives, whether a business, housing, or community?