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Economic viability for Permies in Latin America?

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Ten years of living in Costa Rica has arrived me at an idea/inspiration that I would like to bounce off anyone who can offer value. During these ten years I have met very very few foreigners who manage to bring their lifestyle into the realm of Latin American reality....Legally. There is almost always a dependency on foreign tourists/volunteers/students or in my case and that of many more, Working periodically in our native countries and bringing home the bacon. Yes, there are some who have managed to use their guile to take wealth through real estate activities and/or pseudo legal services. Even these however signify a dependency on the economy of foreign nations as the clients are virtually never local people with ethical employ.

So how does a foreigner sustainable grow roots that bind him/her to the local culture and afford a dignified right livelyhood to his/her family for generations?

Many of us seek to live in small communities becuase the life experience is very much more real, Natural Life is more accesible and Illth less prolific.

So the concept is this. focus on the businesses that these communities allready CAN support.... Bakery, General Store, Produce vendor, Butcher, Dehydrator for Cafe, Cacao, Grains, Fruits, Meats, Potters, Sawmen, Etc., Etc. and build a single Wood fired oven that can afford heat energy for all of these activities and build the shop spaces as units integrated to the oven with the design of Cooperativing/leasing/selling/ the spaces to the Artisans and Entrepenuers with the design of turning the energy into the seed of true local economy.

The raw materials are virtually free and available in most all areas in Costa Rica... River stone, Clay, Straw, lime. Greatest costs would be Ironworks, Refractory cement, etc. The most critical elements will be our time and our ingenuity. (pre-fit for boilercondensor for heat absorption?)

If anybody has experience(s) and/or reference material recomendations or any other type of input please pipe up!!!.



Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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Valentine Carstensen wrote:
So how does a foreigner sustainable grow roots that bind him/her to the local culture and afford a dignified right livelyhood to his/her family for generations?

I think that the biggest key is accepting a latin american level of income and lifestyle. Gringos (and I am not implying you personally) seem to want it both ways. They want the latin life but with american socioeconomics.

I have thought this all through a lot, wanting to be a farmer, and considering doing so in latin america. Thing is, I would have to give up flights out of the country, specialty education for my kids, and any creature comforts that are outside the reality of most latinos. I decided to stay in America and make my agrarian life here.

I look at it this way, you are new to an area, so you have to work harder than those who are already established. If you work harder than the locals, and live like the locals, then you will successfully assimilate yourself as a local. Cant say I have seen many Americans do this, though I know lots of Mexicans who migrate to the US and do exactly this, and are successful at assimilating.

good luck!
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Costa Rica is also the most expensive country in Central America, and probably Latin America. You can get land really cheaply in Eastern Nicaragua, not far away. Hard to sell to big bucks though, so I guess I'm agreeing with Adam, but just talking about it in a different way. The market dynamics are completely different. Most people in Latin America are doing permaculture...... unintentionally. However, the recently elected government of Bolivia came out saying that many people are trying to grow the newest superberry antioxidant thing to sell to Americans for quick profits without taking care of the soil in the long run and that they weren't going to support those people. Can you imagine the president of the US saying that? I think we have to pick our most optimal mix of how we can do mostly what we want to in the best place for that.
John S
Posts: 16
Location: Chiriqui, Panama at 400 meters Wet Tropics
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"Most people in Latin America are doing permaculture...... unintentionally."

Absolutely. Here in Panama, I'm surrounded by excellent examples of permaculture all around me. However, no one calls it "Permaculture" they call it "living". No one has taken a Permaculture class, they have learned from their parents, who learned from their parents who learned form their parents. And here is where I get conflicted... with all the talk about Permaculture Design Courses and Permaculture Standards, and Permaculture Rules, is there room for just practicing permaculture with a little p instead of the big P.

Sorry if this is a bit off topic.
Pura Vida,

Posts: 15
Location: LĂ­bano, Tolima, Colombia - 1840msnm
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Great topic.

I live in a small town in Colombia's central cordillera, there is one other 'gringo' here, he has lived here 20 years and is really German.

Only 7 months ago we moved into our farm, 14 acres reasonably close to town. We are selling commodity coffee right now, as we transform the land.

The interesting question is, how do I know if I am integrated? I will always be a foreigner, even if I die in this town. But my kids might have a mixed identity. I will home school them, its, if anything, easier to do here than in the US.

I certainly have had to sacrifice current income, I studied Economics and have colleagues making 75k a year right now. But I'm still young and I think that the lower costs of living and good potential for productivity in tropical lands makes this a great investment.

I think the most important tool that has helped me is making a local non-profit corporation with my wife. The non-profit can be used to link with other local groups with similar environmental interests connecting the community. The only way to integrate is to love the community and help it help itself, be a part of it and know and work with its people.
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