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Acon is talking about Costa Rica’s Afro-Caribbean population, the descendents of Jamaican laborers who came to Costa Rica beginning in 1871 to construct a railroad connecting the Caribbean coast to the Pacific.After the railroad was finished, they stayed on to work banana plantations, while more Jamaicans immigrated until the late 1940s, also to work in this industry.Red, gold, and green colors and the Jamaican flag are seen on shirts, bracelets, bandanas, and necklaces.
On a DJ Acon mixtape, Beenie Man affectionately refers to him as “DJ Acon, a real Costa Rican black Chinee.” He places the birth of contemporary reggae in Costa Rica around the mid ’80s.
Before the Internet, people transferred music the old school way… Being that Puerto Limón is a port city, cruise and cargo ships dock there, and workers on ships who went to Jamaica would bring back cassettes for their friends and family. DJs were able to set up reggae nights at various bars and clubs on the Caribbean coast.
Far from most tourists’ radars, the Caribbean coastal province Limón is home to a deep-rooted Jamaican culture, the fruits of which continue to thrive today.
In this part of Costa Rica, reggae has the music and style scene on lock.
At that point only Caribbean Ticos listened to reggae and went to reggae events.
Acon proudly explains to me that almost twenty years ago he started a reggae party at the bar-restaurant on the beach where we are sitting.
Today, people who carry Jamaican heritage continue to cook Caribbean food and speak English patois, some not learning Spanish until elementary school.
Though they are Tico (the local term for Costa Rican) and proud, they are also prideful of Caribbean culture, especially music and dance.
“It looked like Sunsplash every Sunday afternoon, completely full,” he says.
Events like these gave Acon his name and encouraged the expansion of Costa Rica’s reggae scene.
During the two years I lived in Costa Rica, I spent as many nights dancing to reggae in city-style San Jose clubs until dawn as I did at wallless bars on tropical beaches.