Monday, May 18, 2015

The Finca

Last year I wrote a blog entry about the "pueblo" culture that exists in Spain. I compared it to Minnesota cabin culture in the same sense that they're both used for friends/family gatherings and weekend get aways. Well, in Costa Rica they don't have Spanish "pueblos" or lake cabins, but they do have the cultural equivalent. Fincas.

This year I've been lucky enough to become friends with a lot of local ticos. We do everything from grabbing a few beers together to going on weekend adventures. I started to hear a lot of talk about "fincas" but wasn't really sure exactly what to think. I knew that finca roughly translated to estate or property, but that still leaves a lot to the imagination. It wasn't until I was invited to my first one that I started to get an idea of what "finca" really meant. Fast forward until the present and I've now been to five fincas and they've all been completely different.

Fincas are secondary houses or pieces of properties that ticos own in addition to their regular home. Many times it's something that has been passed down through a family for many generations. Other times it's a special investment that someone made towards a vacation house. Either way, all of these places are perfect for escaping from the city and getting some fresh air. For some people that means heading to the mountains, for others that means somewhere warmer. Locations of fincas in Costa Rica can really be anywhere. However, all of the fincas I've been to have been in pretty remote areas. In the same way that Spaniards and Minnesotans are trying to get away, disconnect and find some peace of mind, ticos also seem to prefer quiet areas for their escape.
Angie's Finca in San Carlos

Another thing that varies from finca to finca is how much land is involved. All are somewhat sizeable properties. The smallest finca I've been to had at least an acre of land, but many fincas have much more than that. We're talking about 100+ acres of land. This is because like I said earlier, some fincas just serve to be a vacation house and others are family farms. Some of the vacation-style homes, like the ones that belong to my friends Angie and Glory, are actually quite luxurious. Their fincas that have swimming pools, air conditioning and multiple bedrooms. They are a perfectly place to lay around in the sun, cool off with a quick dip and have an afternoon BBQ. My good friend Matt Kuerbis is working as a chef at a beautiful finca in the mountains south-central Costa Rica. This place called "Finca Mia" is a large piece of property with many luxury cabins for guests to stay in. Finca Mia is a gorgeous retreat center (mostly for yoga and spiritual health) owned by an American and Canadian couple.  I had the pleasure of staying there last weekend and it was one of the most beautiful pieces of property I've seen in my entire life, complete with their own orange groves, a babbling river, and tons of wildlife.

Javi's Finca in Vara Blanca
Not all fincas are so luxurious, however. My friend Javi's finca is extremely rustic. His family literally built the wooden cabin themselves and the electricity for the cabin is generated by a gas-powered engine. No need for air-conditioning at Javi's finca, it gets to be freezing over night. Usually we snuggle up with blankets and something to drink and spend the nights talking or listening to our friends play guitar. Javi's family has another finca that's a dairy farm with lots of cows and beautiful green land. Also on the farm they have a little shelter that's basically a covered dining area. It's perfect for rainy day barbecues.

Finca Mia in Perez Zeledon
The bottom line is that in the same way that cabins and pueblos can vary, fincas do too!  Finca is not a one-size-fits-all description; they come in many forms, places and sizes. Though not everyone in Costa Rica has a finca, everyone knows someone who does and it's a big part of tico culture. I'm so happy that I've been able to experience finca life for myself. It reminds me so much of my favorite part of Minnesotan culture, cabin life. It seems to me that in almost every corner or the world there exists a culture similar to what we have in Minnesota. Everyone wants a gathering place for friends and family; somewhere to escape from our stressful lives and share some laughs and good food with great company. They are truly special places with a strong sentimental value. So, wherever you are in the world

I hope that you're able to find your equivalent of a finca, pueblo, or cabin.

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