Happiest Country on the Earth

I had researched and studied Costa Rica before I came, but today we got a more in-depth and honest history lesson from Joaquin Lozano. Though I had learned the basics, I was excited to learn more about why and how events took place.

One question that I had was why is it that Costa Rica emphasizes preserving the environment but recycling and composting is not prevalent? I learned that this is because recycling is not controlled by the government but is instead controlled locally. I did not see that recycling was used because it is not well organized in Heredia but in some other cities it is more efficient. I think this is a contradiction because if Costa Rica really wanted to be completely sustainable and preserve nature, they would make a better effort to reduce waste. Similarly, I also think it is contradictory that they are so proud of nature and protect it in some ways, but there is still a lot of littering. I don’t really agree with Costa Rica’s stance onto this topic. I think that more recycling and composting could go a long way to reduce trash filling landfills, and this is one topic in which Costa Rica should follow the lead of some other countries.

I was also curious why Catholic holidays are very important to Costa Rica but many Ticos do not practice the religion in their daily life? Senor Lozano said that Costa Rica was not very Catholic during the beginning of its history because they were on the border and the church did not have much power over them. So even other religious influences (Jewish, Islam, etc.) can be seen. Costa Rica is a confessional state because in the constitution it says that Roman Catholic is the religion, even though there was a period of time where there was a separation of church and state. Today a majority of the country still claims to be Catholic but only about 45% actually practice it and regularly go to mass. This is another contradiction evident in Costa Rica because there are many “Catholics” and many beautiful churches, but perhaps the churches are only really full on major holidays like Christmas and Holy Week. I think this is pretty common around the world that many members of the Catholic church only celebrate major holidays and events. I also understand that many people had gotten away from the church due to corruption or the church’s stance on major issues. What I don’t really agree with is the lack of separation of church and state if the majority of the population doesn’t even practice the religion.

I also wondered why is it that addresses are not used in Costa Rica? Senor Lozano explained that many little things in Costa Rica culture come from its rural background. In the past everyone knew each other and knew where everything was so they just use landmarks to give directions. I do not agree with this because it seems inefficient for mail and is inconvenient for tourists, but obviously I am biased, especially because I am always bad with directions.

Although there are still many questions, the last one I want to focus on is why Costa Rica doesn’t hate America (like a lot of other countries do). Part of the answer is because Ticos are proud that they beat America in 1856 when William Walker tried to invade. Also after the economic crisis and depression, we lent them lots of money. Today we are a good allies so the term “gringo” does not have the same negative connotation as in other Latin America countries. I agree that this explanation makes sense and I also think that they would like how American tourists bring in lots of money to the country. The contradiction would only come from how they judge us for being loud and other stereotypical American traits, but even if they accept us it makes sense that they would still have opinions about us.

Some other contradictions that Senor Lozano pointed out is how Ticos claim to be homogeneous and very similar but that is not true. There is actually a lot of diversity but unfortunately that used to cause racism. The Ticos considered themselves to be white, and non whites were not allowed in the Central Valley so there was a racial frontier on the coast. An interesting contradiction is how proud Ticos are but Costa Rica is not very well known so sometimes Ticos need to identify and explain their country to others. Lozano said that even though some call Costa Rica “the happiest country on the Earth” it is more unequal than it used to be. Still Costa Rica seems to have a lot of things right and I think it is a very happy place.

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