Friday, January 6, 2012

Blacks in Costa Rica

Railway to Limon in 1904: click here for photo origin 

Did Your Ancestor Migrate from Caribbean to Costa Rica?
Although many people of African descent came to Central America and Costa Rica as early as the 16th century, historical documents trace the first English-speaking African-Caribbean family to 1828. The family of William Smith, a fisherman from Panama, migrated to the Talamanca Coast of Costa Rica (Palmer, 1977). Smith and his family settled in Cahuita in the Limón province.

The latter half of the 19th Century saw a wave of Black immigrants, mostly fishermen and farmers to the eastern Caribbean coast, but even today only about 3% of the population is classified as black.

Looking for Panamanian Ancestors?
If you have lost the hot trail of your Panamanian ancestor, you may wish to check the records of Costa Rica. The Panama War of Independence with Colombia, 1000 Days War, from 1899 -1902 brought a number of blacks to the Costa Rican eastern coast.

From Jamaica to Costa Rica?
The province of Limón is known for its large Jamaican population.  Thanks to the railroad, a large number of Jamaican, Barbados and St. Kitts citizens migrated to Costa Rica for work to build the railroad line between San Jose and Puerto Limon starting as early as 1871. Some would say the Jamaicans were recruited to work on the railroad due to the belief they were “physically better to undertake the elements.” Other historians would suggest that the Costa Ricans refused to do railroad work. Either way, you may look for your early Jamaican and Caribbean ancestor in the Costa Rica genealogical records. 

Know that the original idea for most was to work on the railroad and return home, but due to a slump in the railroad and economy, most were forced to stay and make Costa Rica their home.

For more information
Kathleen Brandt
accurate, accessible answers

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