|Landa, Alava, Spain|
|Charles II of Spain|
In 1502, Christopher Columbus landed on the east coast of Costa Rica and claimed the land for Spain. Believed to be a land rich with gold, Columbus named it Costa Rica, or "Rich Coast." Spain began colonizing Costa Rica in 1524. The first settlers were conquistadors who not only had to clear land, build settlements, and look for gold and other riches for the monarchy, but they also had to defend themselves from the natives of the land.
These early settlers found themselves in a land that, contrary to belief, had no gold or riches. The indigenous people were sparsely populated, so the conquistadors could not use them as a labor force. Because of this, the crown tended to overlook Costa Rica and settlement migration was very slow. For centuries this would be a poor, unpopular colony.
|Church Ruins in Cartago, Costa Rica|
On the 4th of March, 1710, the Dutch slave ship Christianus Quintus along with the Fredericus Quartus wrecked off of the coast of Matina; having already left the coast of Africa with a new shipment of slaves that were to be delivered to the Americas. Six days later, movement was spotted nearby from a lookout tower. It appeared to be two figures running on the beach. The next day, Juan Bautista Retana and a few other men were dispatched to inspect the movement. The Spaniards believed the figures to be native Miskito tribesmen from the north. The two figures were tracked down, and much to their surprise, they were not Miskito, but of a completely different race. They had much darker skin and spoke an unknown language.
The two African women motioned to the Spaniards and drew in the sand to explain there were others like them south along the coast. Juan Bautista was sent with a crew of men to inspect. They found remants of camps along the coast with fish carcasses indicating that someone had been there. It appeared the women were telling the truth. After a 3 day hike, more African slaves were discovered. After several expeditions over the next few months, a total of 103 Africans were rescued by Captains Gaspar de Acosta Arevalo, Antonio de Soto y Barahona, and Juan Francisco de Ibarra y Calvo. Some of the Africans rescued were from the Miskito's. Most of the Africans were taken to Cartago and sold as slaves to cacao farmers.
|Costa Rican of African Descent|
Juan Bautista Retana had at least 4 children with Bernarda, 3 girls and one boy. It was with this son, Antonio Miguel Retana Sandoval, that the name Retana would be carried on for generations in Costa Rica. Life for Juan Bautista and Bernarda is unknown after the discovery of the slaves on the beaches of Matina. One can assume he continued on with life as it was before, as a simple cacao farmer in Matina; a far cry from his childhood in Villa de Landa, Alava, Spain.
Costa Rica would become one of the world's most popular tourist destinations for it's temperate climate, beautiful landscapes, and tropical wildlife. Costa Ricans, or Ticos, welcome everyone visiting with their motto, Pura Vida!
For a detailed account of the shipwrecks and the slave trade that ensued afterwards, click here. Also, more information can be found here.
For more on the history of Costa Rica, click here .
Descendants of Juan Bautista Retana:
|Jesus Retana Cervantes (1855-1919)|
|Jesus Retana Cervantes and his family (about 1897)|
|Abrahan Retana Alvarez and Eduviges Rojas Castro|
|Angela Retana Rojas, Matilde Alvarez Castro, Zaida Barahona Retana,|
Abrahan Retana Alvarez
|Eida Barahona Retana, Angela Retana Rojas, Zaida Barahona Retana|
|Zaida Barahona Retana|
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