Tostones: A Delicious Costa Rican Tradition Rooted in African Heritage

This post explores the cultural significance of tostones in the Afro-Caribbean community of Costa Rica and the variations of the dish. It also touches on the history of Afro-Caribbean immigration to Costa Rica and the role of family and tradition in the cuisine.

4/8/20231 min read

Tostones, or twice-fried plantains, are a staple in Costa Rican cuisine, especially in the Afro-Caribbean community. As a first-generation American with roots in Jamaica and Costa Rica, tostones have always been a part of my family's culture and tradition.

The Afro-Caribbean community in Costa Rica has a rich history that dates back to the 19th century when African workers were brought to the country to work on the railroad. Many of these workers eventually settled along the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, bringing with them their culture, music, and cuisine. In fact, my own family arrived in Costa Rica through this migration and we still have a house along that railway.

Marcus Garvey, the Jamaican-born activist and founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, also played a significant role in the Afro-Caribbean community in Costa Rica. He arrived in the country during the early 20th century and started the Black Star Line and UNIA, my great grand pa Charlie and worked with Marcus Garvey during this time.

Tostones are a reflection of this rich Afro-Caribbean heritage in Costa Rican cuisine. They are typically made by slicing green plantains into rounds, frying them once, then flattening them and frying them again until crispy. While this is the most traditional way of making tostones, there are many variations across Latin America and the Caribbean. Some people add garlic, salt, or other seasonings to the tostones before frying, while others may use different types of plantains or even yuca.

In my family, tostones are a staple at every gathering, from birthdays to holidays. We make them with love and care, just as our ancestors did. Tostones may seem like a simple side dish, but for us, they represent so much more - they are a symbol of our family's history, culture, and traditions.