Preserving a community through storytelling

Post courtesy of IU newsroom intern Amanda N. Marino:

Over Thanksgiving break, while many people were eating turkey and watching IU secure an Old Oaken Bucket victory, I headed south determined to collect stories while also adding to my own.

amanda marino

Amanda Marino interviewing a community member as part of the Rich Coast Project. Photo by Audrie Osterman.

I was one of 14 Media School students who traveled to Costa Rica as part of a partnership between The Media School at IU Bloomington and the Rich Coast Project to collect stories and add them to an ever-growing archive.

The Rich Coast Project, founded by IU alumna Katie Beck, works to create a living, public archive of the community of Puerto Viejo in Limón, Costa Rica. It looks at the community’s past through those who lived it and heard about it from older relatives, with a goal of protecting the land rights and cultural heritage of the people of Costa Rica.

Our main mission was to work in pairs collecting stories and compiling a podcast about the subject we were focusing on. I worked with a fellow student and local who acted as our story facilitator, covering a fungus called monilia that infected cacao and effectively changed the face of Puerto Viejo’s economy and community. What had been a thriving cacao industry in the 1980s was replaced, with the help of other developments such as a major road leading to Puerto Viejo, by a major tourism industry.

I learned that the people in Puerto Viejo are undeniably resilient and full of heart. From how they responded to the monilia outbreak to how they treated my peers and me, the people of Puerto Viejo were consistently present and kind.

Although Hurricane Otto’s landfall north of us brought nearly constant rain and cloud cover, our experience was nothing short of phenomenal.

From the time we arrived in Puerto Viejo, we were immediately immersed in Caribbean culture. Beck’s fiancé, David, and his friends prepared meals for us every day that featured fresh fruits I wouldn’t dream of seeing in Indiana. When not working, we explored the area, enjoyed the jungle and beaches and made some friends along the way.

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Some 14 Media School students took part in the trip. Photo by Audrie Osterman.

In town, we were greeted with the phrase “Pura vida” repeatedly from locals. Translated directly, the words mean “pure life,” but for the community, and now for me, they hold a much deeper meaning of not letting worry take over because, in reality, life is good. Together with the community, we celebrated Thanksgiving and yet another opportunity to share our stories.

The opportunity to both be enveloped in Costa Rican culture and to communicate with the people of Costa Rica only increased my passion for storytelling. It is what I strive for in journalism, and I hope this is one of many opportunities I will have to do this kind of work.

It has been said that a person dies twice: once when they leave their bodies and once when they are forgotten. I hope that the group’s work with the Rich Coast Project can forever defend these people from that second death and allow new generations to learn more about their roots.

Read more students reports from Costa Rica on the Media School’s website.

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