The development was begun four years ago when the real estate boom on the Ballena coast was thriving. Property was priced at an all time high and the North Americans who were here to invest their retirement dollars were pumping up the local economy. Athough Uvita is not a population center, or a cultural center for this part of the coast, it is a financial center. When the Costa Rican banks put in offices here, they did not put in branch offices without full facilities as they did, for example in Cortes, although it is the county seat. No, Uvita got the full service banks with officers and armed guards. This was where the gringo dollar was being invested.
Banco Costa Rica took up residence in fresh development right on the prime corner of the Uvita crossroads. Next to it sprung up a shiny new mercado, La Corona, an offshoot of the largest grocery in San Isidro; it's shelves brimming with Chilean wines, olive oils and familiar brand names. The mercado directly across the street that had just moved into another prime location and re-opened with a fanfare quietly folded up its awnings and closed its doors within six months; a victim of La Corona. A new upstairs restaurant, Dona Maria, opened opposite the Banco Costa Rica and its parking lot is full in the evenings.
And just a hundred metres away sits the development, which, except for evenings and Saturdays is empty and barren. But on Saturday the feria opens underneath the canopy roof and is, however briefly, that needed hub of activity. The feria is, of course, and necessarily, the victim of seasonal traffic, but it still provides a social need for this community that occasionally has no community. On Saturday mornings, the Gringos who do support the feria crawl down out of the hills to pick up produce, honey, cheese and meat; but also to do a little catching up and some air-kissing and hand shaking. The feria provides those functions for those who chose to attend that it should provide and that farmers markets everywhere provide. Not only is there beautiful produce and handmade goods, but there are people, the community; neighbors, passing acquaintances and friends.
Sadly, the feria suffers, as does my restaurant and the quality eating establishments of others, from a wrong-headed thinking that dogs many food based businesses all over the United States. There is a perception here that the feria is expensive, over-priced, unworthy of the expenditure. And this thinking is so backwards and wrong. Unfortunately it smacks of the carpet-bagger mentality of a few gringos who are here for themselves and themselves only and don't see deeper into how communities such as the one in Uvita need the support of all. It seems so foolish to me that one would buy the raggedy and well traveled produce across the street at La Corona in order to save a few colones, rather than buying beautiful, sturdy organic produce straight from the earth from our feria and spending a those few colones on better food, higher yields, and most importantly, supporting farmers, friends and community.
I certainly am not the one to tell my friends and neighbors how to spend their hard-earned dollars and colones. I can tell them how valuable and necessary to our new lifestyle the Uvita feria is. I can tell them that investing in the people and the produce that are native to the area where you have taken up residence is vital to all of our continued existences here in this paradise. And I can tell them that food is love, but it's entirely possible they're not listening.