Manzanillo

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Manzanillo

is named for one of the world’s most poisonous trees. Its milky sap is toxic to the touch and eating its apple-like fruit can be fatal to humans. Also known as manchineel (Lat. Hippomane mancinella from the wolf milk plant family), it is found near and on coastal beaches. Manzanillo was founded in 1850 and since 1985 has been included in the protected Gandoca area as a wildlife refuge. The town was originally founded on a largely fishing-based commerce but has since fostered the cultivation of cacao and coconuts. Both prospered so well that they were nicknamed “golden grains” and even used by merchants as currency.

 Part of Manzanillo’s Afro-Caribbean heritage stems from Panama and the islands Bocas del Toro and Bastimientos, while other inhabitants have Jamaican ancestors who came to work on the developing rail line around 1900. They encountered the indigenous Bribri tribe and the two peoples mixed, creating a unique culture before settling down in the mountains of Talamanca. The Bribri language is still taught in schools for fear that it will be wiped out by the proliferation of Spanish. Other Bribris who stayed on the coast speak rare Afro-Caribbean English simply called “Broken English.”

 With the continued growth within the province of Limon, a road was built in 1984 and people from all over began to trickle in. In 1990 the yeast-like fungus Monilia broke out among cacao and coconut plants. Palm trees became infected with a fungus named yellow wing around the same time and local trade was devastated. Only since 2000 has Manzanillo become known as a hotspot for both international and Costa Rican vacationers at once. Local families quickly endeavored to encourage this emerging industry of tourism, and the financial ruin brought by the fungus was recovered. Today approximately 300 people call Manzanillo home, though this number is growing due to an increased birthrate among the native population coupled with more immigration.

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