Diving into Costa Rican History

Professor Joaquin Lizano gave a very informative presentation on this history of Costa Rica today.  I was fascinated by the amount and depth of knowledge Joaquin Lizano was able to present.  Prior to and during the presentation I thought of many questions that Lizano addressed which helped me to better understand Costa Rican culture and history.

Why didn’t Costa Rica feel the need to break free from Spanish rule between 1502-1821?

I was surprised when Professor  Lizano’s first reaction to this question was to compare the colonization of the United States to that of Costa Rica.  England’s colonization of the United States was based on wealth, so the colonists were treated poorly.  However, Spain was a falling empire at the time under a feudal system, so they went to the America’s with a different mindset.  I learned today that Spain brought along the catholic mentality, which says that wealth is sinful because it leads to greed and corruption.  Lizano said the main reason that Costa Rica wanted to remain under Spanish rule because he thought it led to a better treatment of the Ticos since Spain did not have the same purpose as England in their colonization.  Also, he pointed out that Spain had an “established rule in Latin America” (they had a strong base in Guatemala, which led to a more direct rule) and how Costa Rica was able to bend the rules because it was a border state.  This argument was very convincing and I agree that Costa Rica did not have any reason to break free, so there was no purpose in causing a war when Costa Rica was one of the poorest countries at that point in time.  However, the great pride that Tico’s take in their country today contradicts their views on independence from 1502-1821.  I wish I was able to ask when their great spirit of nationalism and pride started, because I think if this mindset was as prominent then as it is today, the Tico’s would have wanted to break free.

Why doesn’t the word “gringo” have a negative connotation in Costa Rica?

“Gringo” is the word that many countries use to describe Americans, and in most places it has a negative meaning.  However, in Costa Rica there is not a negative connotation attached to this word according to Joaquin Lizano.  He discussed how the Tico’s do not have any reason to view Americans in a negative way.  The only time the United States invaded Costa Rica was in 1856.  However, Costa Rica won and Juan Santamaria became Costa Rica’s hero, so this was not a reason to hate the United States.  Also, the United States and Costa Rica have been allies ever since Don Pepe banned the Communist Party.  Lizano also stated how the United States has supported Costa Rica in many economic crises.  I find all of these reasons valid, but I think the word can still have negative connotations in Costa Rica.  Just because Tico’s should not use the word in a negative way, doesn’t mean that some won’t.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that “gringo” does not always carry a negative connotation.

Why don’t Tico’s care about addresses (if they even have one)?

Before coming to Costa Rica, I was shocked to learn that Tico’s rarely use addresses and have very few street signs.  During my short time in Costa Rica so far, I have already noticed that I do not see many street signs, but that it is actually not that hard to navigate by using landmarks instead. Professor Lizano stated that Tico’s have a rural philosophy when it comes to street signs.  This means that in rural areas around the world, it is less common to see street signs, just as it is in all of Costa Rica.  Also, he pointed out that Tico’s normally know where things are, so street signs are not very important. If they do not need them, then why have them? I agree with these two reasons, and I think a reason as to why Tico’s normally know landmarks and where things are is because it is very common for children to live with their parents for a long time and to live close to the parents when they move out.  This means that Tico’s normally stay in the same area for a majority of their life, so it makes sense that they know where landmarks are.  I think the fact that Tico’s do not commonly use street signs and addresses coincides with their style of life because I have found that Tico’s normally do not like having an excess of anything.

Today’s history lesson made me curious to explore and see how history has affected different aspects of the Tico’s lifestyle!

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