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Santa Teresita A Community Built From The Ground Up And Standing On It’s Own Two Feet
by Ashley Steayert
Photographs Emiliana Garcia










Following a dusty, bumpy ride through the tropical countryside, we arrive at the community of Santa Teresita, or Little Saint Teresa, a quaint settlement of tightly knit houses encircling a general store located less than 10 kilometers East of Nosara. The community lies at the foot of a teeming mountain along an unpaved road lined with almond trees and bushes dappled with crimson hibiscus flowers. As we enter the small general store, several individuals who have been anticipating our arrival receive us with courtesy and ivory smiles. The dimly lit one room shop is furnished with mix-matched wooden surfaces displaying a variety of local foodstuff and bordered by several coolers standing tall on polished concrete floors. Upon inquiring about their history in the area, I realize that nearly everyone working in and patronizing the shop is a direct descendant of the man I have come to meet.

Presently, Mr. Joaquín Gómez Bran, a man with a geriatric appearance and calm, authoritative demeanor that combine to create a presence tantamount to Father Time, greets us. His thick, coal colored hair is streaked with ashy highlights and his kind eyes are amber orbs outlined by a thin line of aquamarine. He wastes no time on lengthy introductions and vanity, clearly much more interested in focusing my attention on our surroundings than on himself.

He leads me up a dirt trail etched out by the descent of recent rains, like a miniature dried-up riverbed turned footpath ascending to a plateau featuring a well-kept soccer field and the skeletal structure of the area’s first community hall. The site is an empty, open, ample area built with unrefined concrete and unbridled hope for a future of communal accomplishment and activity. As we circle around the perimeter of the building-to-be, we pass through a group of bustling citizens who apparently see no need to await the completion of the project to begin utilizing their public structure. A handful of local women serve food on plastic plates and refreshments from ice chests to around twenty youngsters making themselves comfortable on cinder blocks bridged by planks of wood and a lone picnic bench dwarfed by the wide-open space of the still empty auditorium. It’s here in the gaping construction site over the echoes chatting friends, barking dogs and whistling kids that Mr. Gómez, or as he’s more commonly known, Pequín, begins to tell me the story behind the structure and the community it aims to serve.

The history of Santa Teresita is a portrayal of continued faith, hard work and generosity, which has made the members of this humble community “very happy, and very grateful”. In 1980 Pequín, his wife and their first four children came to the area of only four houses with no electricity, no school and no store. Today residents Santa Teresita are proud to have their own store, elementary school, church, and the only high school in the area, as well as the presently completed community hall. All of the now seventy or so houses in the little town have electricity, and some enjoy cable television. Despite the town’s accomplished infrastructure and utilities, it is clear that the local goals still focus on community union and sustainability, rather than profit or popularity. In his own words, “we’re doing everything right here” in Santa Teresita, and any successes, resources or profits generated within the area are “only for the community” rather than individuals or outside beneficiaries. Gratitude has certainly not escaped Pequín and his well-established family, who continually express their gratitude to God and foreign investors such as Marcel Schaerer, Jim Robber and the Proyecto Americano for their support, just to name a few.

We are later invited in to their home; an extension of the aforementioned family owned and operated general store. It’s obvious that the house is immaculately kept as I see my reflection on the tile floor, the changing patterns of which give evidence to the several additions made to the house to accommodate for the needs of the growing family which now includes 8 children and some 25 grandchildren who now live in their own neighboring houses. Pequín’s wife, Justina Luis Castillo recounts how she “is so happy for so many things” as she “never imagined [Santa Teresita] would have so much” to offer the community.

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