Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Introduction Latin America 201: Costa Rica

Today’s topic is Costa Rica. It is tropical. Far away from my home country Japan, by the other side of Pacific, Costa Rica is located right by the most narrowed point of the America Continent.

Introduction Latin America 201: Costa Rica

For the most of Japanese people, Latin American countries aren’t familiar. Costa Rica is one of them. There is no non-stop direct flight from Japan. So, one has to take 18 hours to get there via 1-stop in North America. Size of the land of Costa Rica is almost equal to the Greater Tokyo Metropolitan area. Costa Rica is a small, unique, and actually one of those without millitary. I’ve stayed in this country for about 8 months. Aright, how was it like?

001, At A Glance

Weather has two seasons, dry and rain. From May to X’mas, rainy season, El Valle Central where I was gets crazy downpour after launch time every single day. But temperature doesn’t bother unless you go to high up in a mountain, you can be ok just to put on a jacket even at night time. And during dry season, many beaches get packed with locals and foreign tourists in bikinis and shorts. During rainy season though, various garbage from inland and wreckages cover up the beaches. It is just like us the humans with beautiful and ugly inner-selves, no?

Aright, cuisine culture is simple. Every Ticos and Ticas eat Gallopinto, rice’n beans, for breakfast. For launch and supper at home, Casado is typical. Casado consists of rice, beans, fried plantain, salad, picadillo, tortilla, and a choice of chicken, pork, or beef, and all items are put on one big plate. Compared with Japanese cuisine, I couldn’t find it refined delicacy yet its unique simplicity was relaxing, so it's all good.

Roman Catholic, one of the biggest organizations of Christianity, gets over 90% of Ticos’ spiritual worship and is integrated into local culture. One of Ticos’ favorites sayings that I heard often is “ay, gracias adios” when they feel gratitude. Interestingly, a cathedral or church sits in the heart of a town, and all the houses and community area ware developed around them. And many communities were filled with happy vibes on Sunday afternoon when Christians attended their service and were rejuvenated by it.

Music, widely Salsa, Merengue, and Cumbia were played. By the Caribbean coast, Calypso is very popular among black locals. In recent years, global youth generation listen to MTV and UK Pops, Mexican Pops, HipHop, and Reggaeton. In the capital San Jose at nighttime, party people dance to 4 beats like House/Techno at a classy club. Jazz is also enjoyed by San Jose adults. In San Jose, there was also a reggae club often plays foundation, medium, and conscious tunes. I only attended a outdoor music festival, they played mix genres like catchy Rock, Calypso and Pops.

Major industries could be three types. The 1st one is exporting agricultural products such as bananas, coffee, pineapples, and flowers. And long time ago, they have to build railroad in order to transport the products from farms inland to a port. That’s when many Chinese and Jamaican people immigrated as labors. The 2nd one could be subcontracting. Jobs come from multinational big corporations’ outsourcing like electronics, pharmaceutical, and consumer goods. Because of many complicated business agreements like Free Trade Agreement, working condition ain’t no good as rich countries. And the 3rd one is Eco Tourism. In a forest or at a beach, while enjoying tropical atmosphere, you can learn about various social problems such as environment, ecosystem, coastal development and city planning. I personally recommend this, it is really hot in Costa Rica.

Housing style is like Colonial, and many houses and buildings got a nice courtyard inside. Many Ticos live in s house with concrete wall and galvanized iron roof. So, it’s kinda loud and good when rain so hard. Some bigmen live in a house with bricks wall and ceramic roof.

Language in Costa Rica is Español, the second spoken in the world by over 4oo millions in 25 countries.

Currency is called colón. Right now, you can have Casado for 2,000 colones that is about little less than US $4.00 and almost JP ¥400.

002. Ticos/Ticas

Majority of people in Costa Rica are European descendants. About 3% are Jamaican descendants, 2% Chinese a.k.a. Chino, then some Mayan descendants live in mountain area with population about some thousands.

These Costa Ricans call themselves Ticos (men)/Ticas (women). And their motto is famous “Pura Vida!”. It’s really pure life. This is how you use it: “What’s up?” “Pura Vida!”, “How was it?” “Pura Vida!”, then “Pura Vida!” “Pura Vida!”. Anything is good. So many Ticos are cheerful with big smile. Then, Ticos are famous for crazy about football. Deportivo Saprissa, one of the Toyota Cup teams in 2005, was Ticos. Even so many people get no-work and no-school day when national team have a big match.

003. Brief History

Early 16th centuries, when… some European bigmen with military power were promoting their “civilization” campaign from Africa to Asia, an up-and-coming Spaniard named Christopher Columbus landed where it is called the America Continent. His arrival was the beginning of history-long nightmare for Native Americans and Indigenous but brought Europe some big “business opportunities”. Time passed, and in 19th centuries, Costa Rica got an independence from Spain and became a country. And racial mix didn’t really progress, so Spanish descendants had to be labor themselves working with soil. Consequently, Costa Rica could form as a country in early period.

004. Experiential Studies

In 2004, I arrived in Costa Rica and began living there. It was my first living in so called “the 3rd world”. Everything was so new. Like so many kinds of fresh fruits available at local market, how Ticos communicate each other with their cheerful vibes. Bananas, even some kinds, mangos, papayas, coconuts, pineapples, and even yuca grow everywhere. It seemed there was a plenty of food over there.

Once look at streets, so many Ticos drive old used Hyundai and/or Kia. Roads are paved but halls and bumps are everywhere. Even during daytime at local bars, men get drunk with one of their national pride drinks, Imperial, Pilsen or Cacique. Nicaraguans were making living by picking up coffee beans in a plantation. White tourists/Gringos were driving around in bran new rent-a-car, and hookers hanging out with them. Yeah, money really talks. So everything is Pura Vida!

As I was there as a college student studying overseas, I spent much time on research and assignments. Plus, I had to catch up everything going on around me with my second and third languages English and Spanish. Learning Latin American reality, visiting banana plantations for exports, hanging out with locals and indigenous, topics that I studied were relating to ecology and globalization. I had great chance to learn about history, economic and political relations with Latine American countries and Europe and the US.

Now, never mind to explore tropical jungles, rather I wanted to enjoy beach things. around this time, I met l Roxy. She was smart, fun Mexicana, and working on her subject Coastal Development. We got along well quick, and I began spending time with her. My schedule became something like… 4 days in a town with schoolmates and 3 days of weekend at beach called Playa Manuel Antonio at Roxy's place.

One thing I noticed through my stay in Costa Rica, I was looked down by many Ticos. I’m talking about racism. Some Ticos even gave me an attitude because of what I look. It exists and it is a reality everywhere. Hey, I’m Japanese… oh well, Chino for them. It wasn’t a happy thing but was good experience to get Chino treatment.

005. Summary

Pura Vida! Today and tomorrow, tropical all the time, good things and bad things, anything positively Pura Vida! In the first place, tomorrow becomes today, today becomes yesterday, pure life Pura Vida! Thanks the 3rd world. Gracias adios, Costa Rica, Pura Vida!

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