Around campus, we know Gilberth Lobo de Rodríguez as a bright and compassionate host of our coffee tours. His wife, Amalia Rodríguez, is responsible for the fresh smell of our fabrics and shining campus corridors. But behind the family of hardworking farmers, there is even a more intense side to one of their favorite hobbies – running!
Gilberth and Amalia both finished in medaling positions in their last race, the Fire Mountain Trail. They demonstrate the importance of experience as grandparents in a competition of all ages.
The long display of trophies in the Rodríguez house shows the fruit of practice and repetition – medals won from all around the country, some named with races they have run 10 years in a row. Their running crosses borders from thin forested trails to paved roads, from steep mountains to a yearly race on the beach. With Hilbert’s hopes of running the Boston Marathon, the possibilities show no end.
The UGACR campus depends on locals like Amalia and Gilberth to keep all of our necessities available. Gilberth explains how this hasn’t always been easy: The generation before Gilberth’s grandparents were some of the first groups of people in the upper San Luis area to cultivate coffee. Most of the farmers that lived here would grow coffee, beans, and corn with a focus on subsistence. Families would often take the harvested plants long distances to be able to trade for necessities like medicines, clothes, and textiles.
In the background of this photo you can see a trunk of a coffee tree passed down from Gilberth’s grandfather, cut when it was 65 years old. From the tours, we learn how the cultivation of coffee has evolved in these few generations. By refraining from the use of pesticides and chemicals, the production quantity is reduced on the fincas (farms) around our campus.
This is a logical sacrifice because of the demand for high-quality organic coffee.
Retaining these independent ethics means balancing the
relationship with fungus, parasites, and local wildlife, which is a community effort. Like many in the community, Gilberth shares his strong labor on several farms aside from his own.
The workers and visitors at UGA Costa Rica all play a role in the production cycle by creating trade opportunities. The food that we eat either comes from campus or other local fincas. Gilberth sees a beneficial companionship between the two. From his perspective, the university has developed in harmony with the local fincas. The arrival of different nationalities, cultures and customs provided the community with a possibility of beneficial exchanges of experiences and knowledge. Now he sees much of the local youth speaking English.
“Cuando llegan grupos de diferentes nacionalidades, culturas y costumbres, eso permite a algunas familias de la comunidad tener una relación de intercambio, experiencia, y conocimiento.”
The Rodríguez family is a supercharged example of working hard and playing even harder, waking up early in spite of long hours. They keep their practice strong by maintaining healthful and organized habits that are centered around the family. They continue the tradition of growing coffee in a similar way they pass down the hobby of running to the next generation – their daughter now has seven races under her belt.
Gilberth and Amalia say that the other competitors are often people they are familiar with. They do not see opponents as rivals, but rather as friends to share the experience with. When he gets tired and may slow down, Gilberth thinks of the exhaustion as a common denominator between his friends, that the man behind him may be even more tired himself.
“Cuando me siento cansado yo solamente pienso que los demás también están cansados y posiblemente más que yo. Entonces no hay razón para terminar.”
Racing with this mentality is an exchange that motivates the community. Gilberth and Amalia are more content with the tranquil lifestyle of rural Costa Rica in the San Luis valley. They have relatives scattered in many parts of the country, but enjoy seeing the fruits of their labor in a more direct way. At a finca, you have to be committed to your daily work, but it pays off when you are provided with the ability to immediately quench your hunger and thirst without paper exchange.
Meeting people like Gilberth and Amalia is what makes a visit to UGACR memorable. It makes an impression to see people who are committed to their trades and hobbies every day, helping to lift up the campus community. This is part of what makes our exchange so rich, that possibly one day the Rodríguez grandson will show his medals to a touring group.
Photos and words contributed by Photojournalism Intern Charles Austin Boll