Not since Hurricane Alma in May 2008 has our community of San Gerardo de Rivas seen such devastating storms. But on October 4th, 5th and 6th 2017 Tropical Storm Nate that morphed into Hurricane Nate, laid a path of destruction throughout Central America including Costa Rica.
San Gerardo de Rivas is located on the flanks of Mt Chirripó – Costa Rica’s highest peak and part of the Talamanca Mountain Range. As can be imagined any storm coming off the Caribbean brings very high gusty winds and rainfall to our slopes and frequently results in the landslides and flooding we saw in early October.
Miraculously no one was injured in our area, and damage to homes was minimal. However, roads and bridges, water lines, crops and businesses were badly affected. Photos of the landslides that affected the road to Herradura give some idea of the damage throughout the region. Similarly in ‘La Chispa’ – the farming district of San Gerardo – people were stranded as bridges collapsed and roads washed out. The same stories were repeated in ‘El Lloron’ barrio of Los Angeles de Rivas, in Chucuyo near San Francisco Chimirol and all the way down to Rivas itself.
Livelihoods have been greatly changed: Truchero Cocolisos lost all its trout as the river surged through the trout farm; avocado and tomato harvests were destroyed and coffee farms suffered landslides and loss of product. It will be some time until we can calculate the total loss.
Of course everyone helped their neighbors, and communities staggered back to normality; but not until they had gone through days and days of blackouts, food shortages in the stores and concerns over reaching hospital for those needing to go.
In San Gerardo and Herradura the local non-profit Proyecto San Gerardo launched an appeal and gratefully received over USD$3,000 largely from donors in Canada, but also from all around the world. Rose Charities Canada donated a generous $600 to the appeal and with this help Proyecto San Gerardo was able to pay for heavy machinery use, water piping and cement in San Gerardo (Chispa), Herradura and now El Lloron in Los Angeles. The communities are very grateful to all those who donated and thought of others so far away who were victims of the hurricane.
Family and friends of Bryn Hutchinson also donated to disaster relief in his name to remember the young naturalist and avid birder who loved Costa Rica but was tragically killed in a motor vehicle accident last year. Say his parents Marian and Mark:
“Bryn visited Costa Rica in December 2014 when he was 16. He was already a keen birder and was looking forward to logging new species on his life list. He was also fascinated with the challenges Costa Rica faces as a small country with huge biodiversity in trying to find a balance between economic development and preservation of the natural world. He decided to film a documentary about his trip as a school project. He named the resulting film “Resplendence,” after the resplendent quetzal.
Bryn was also a musician and composer, majoring in music at his high school. For his graduating composition in 2016, he wrote a complex seven-and-a-half-minute piece for full orchestra, titled “Pura Vida,” another tribute to the country he admired. This piece received its world premiere performance at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Bryn planned to become a biologist and work to save the world’s ecosystems. He was accepted into the University of British Columbia for the fall of 2016. Tragically his life was cut short before he could start his studies. In his memory his family and high school have set up a memorial fund to provide a yearly scholarship for a student from Bryn’s school who intends to pursue biology or a related field in post-secondary studies.
The communities of Chirripó deeply appreciate the gifts of Bryn’s family and friends and everyone else who gave. As they start to get back to ‘normal’ the people and businesses of San Gerardo, Herradura and surrounding villages appreciate your support whether you buy their produce, visit their tourist attractions or eat in their restaurants. They are also busy learning about being prepared for such storms in the future, as come they will.
If you are interested in reading more about the history of San Gerardo de Rivas you can pick up a copy of the memoir of the village: ‘Senderos Campesinos’ at the village store, your hotel or online via firstname.lastname@example.org.