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Our Great Migration to Costa Rica

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

On May 30th, my life and my son's will change in a very big way. We will live in a different country, exist in a totally new energy, and welcome in a simpler way of life. It has been a long time dream of mine to move closer to my roots, and it is finally... really... actually, happening. Wow.

The Root

A poster in Kingston, Jamaica soliciting workers to go to Limon for the railroad project.

In the 1800's there was a migration of workers from Jamaica to Costa Rica to work on a railroad project. This project shook the families of thousands who relocated their families, and my great grandparents were one of them. From Kingston, Jamaica, Jane Morgan and her husband Charles Burke, moved to Puerto Limon, located on the east coast of the country. In Limon, they had their church, local food, customs, language and community, and they did well enough to stay and raise children. Limon became known as a place with vibrant Black Caribbean culture unlike other places in Costa Rica.

My great grandfather, James Burke with my aunt and father

An early memory my grandmother shared with me is that her dad would bring home an avocado and say "Hey, this pear looks like you," and hand it to her to eat. Her life in the home was strict though, and when she was old enough, she applied for nursing school in San Jose (the capital) and went to school there to see more of the world.

Family portrait, my grandparents, aunt and father

My grandfather, James "Capitan". Emanuel Escarpeta Roach, Belizian, worked for the United Fruit Company and traveled all over central and South America transporting goods. He met my grandmother at Hospital Dr. Tony Facio where she worked as a nurse, and courted her repeatedly until she accepted to go out with him. They had 2 kids in Limon and planned to move to Texas together. Sadly, shortly before the trip, my grandfather passed away from a brain aneurysm. The funeral was grand with a procession through town to the cemetery. I can see this scene so clearly through my dad's description.

My dad and aunt

My grandmother's school ID photo from nursing school in San Jose

My Grandmother knew that she was still going to live in the US and she left her kids with her sister and came back for them after she was well established. In the US, they became Jehovah's Witnesses and lived in Long Island for many years until my aunt and dad went off to live in other places.

When I was 6 years old my family went to visit my great Aunt Rebecca in the town of Guacimo. There I played with my cousins around the railroad tracks and busted my knee on the tracks. My Grandmother used to joke and said I left a "piece" of me there. She is right! :)

Fast Forward to Present Day

It took so much to get here. Realizing this dream of moving closer to my roots. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for every ancestor, every obstacle and good deed. Many times I attempted to leave the US, something would "pause" me. Feeling tied to a job, meeting someone, having a child 👦. Today I feel so much liberation because I've learned that standing in my truth is the most important thing. It is where I feel the most peace and where I thrive.

The works of art in this sale are all expressions of this journey I have hand picked to offer for your artwork collection. Each line in the works represents a diverse life experience. Alone, these lines may seem like nothing special, but when you put them all together, they are a beautiful melody, and that is how I see life. Many of these works have accompanying essays and some even have rail road spikes, an ode to my Costa Rican heritage.

I hope you enjoyed this read! I certainly enjoyed writing it.

Love & Light,

J. Alexandra Escarpeta

Photo credit:

Family Photos: Escarpeta Family Archives

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