A reoccurring theme throughout today’s lecture with Dr. Joaquín Lizano was that not everything is what it seems in Costa Rican history. Costa Rica has a perception of being the happiest country on Earth, but that is not necessarily the case. Dr. Lizano delved into several important historical events that formed the country that we are studying in today.
A question that piggy backs well off of my first blog post is how did Costa Rica become one of the most sustainable countries in the world? A sort of roundabout answer is that they had a long enough period of significant public funding. This started in 1940 with President Rafael Calderón. It is easiest for me to relate him to a Costa Rican Bernie Sanders. Calderón placed on strong emphasis on Socialist ideals which allowed a semi-brief period of a high quality of life in Costa Rica. This increased public funding was able to be directed towards fashioning National Parks and environmental practices. Another for Costa Rica’s top placement in sustainability is that their economy relies heavily on tourism. I feel as though this is the most significant reason. Because most of Costa Rica’s exports are luxuries and not necessities, as a country they need to find other sources of economic support. I believe that the industry of ecotourism incentivizes them to maintain their natural attractions, and to give off a strong impression of natural purity.
Last but not least, why does Costa Rica have the perception of a “happy history” when clearly many aspects of it were not very happy? As most things do, it all started with a little seed. We can send our gratitude for the Costa Rican coffee that we buy at American Starbucks to a man named Juan Mora. President of Costa Rica from 1849-1859, Mora was the first to place an importance on the growing and exporting of coffee. “Why coffee?”, I asked Dr. Lizano. Apparently, there isn’t one answer. The fact of the matter is, one man’s personal preference in a certain plant sparked the economic boom of an entire country. The following result was a growing and thriving middle class, and thus a newly found voice for the Costa Rican people. So to answer my question, Costa Rica has a so called “happy history” because of: coffee! When I think about it, the reasoning is sound. Costa Rica had something that everyone else wanted, and because of this, their economy was able to prosper. And with that being said, more money = more happiness (unless you’re talking to The Notorious B.I.G).
An interesting statistic that Dr. Lizano gave us was that 70% of the Costa Rican population is Catholic, but only 45% is practicing. Why is there a lack of importance on religious life? From the 1500s to 1821, Costa Rica was under the umbrella of Guatemala (thanks to Christopher Columbus and the Spanish Inquisition). During this time, Guatemala and Nicaragua had all of the wealth and all of the attention, leaving Costa Rica impoverished and virtually insignificant. Because they weren’t really getting any consideration from Spain, they felt no connection or pull to the Catholic faith. They were ruled by Spain so they were technically considered Catholic, but there was no one present with enough consistency to actually transition them into this faith. For this, Guatemala and Honduras hold a greater weight on an active religious life, even to this day. Learning this was interesting for me because I inquired about this on Sunday. Professor Teeter told me that Sunday was a day for relaxing and socializing and not so much for going to church, which was made clear by Dr. Lizano’s lesson. I agree with his logic. I personally view religion as a constructed concept, so it makes perfect sense to me that it is not the top priority in Costa Rica. It is because there was never anybody that forced it to be the top priority.
I very much appreciated the lecture today by Dr. Joaquín Lizano because it gave me a better idea of the real ‘Tico history and culture. Tonight at dinner I spoke to my Mamma Tico about President Solís, the current president of Costa Rica. She told me that because of him, Costa Rica is a very peaceful and enjoyable place to live. She told me that she feels that Costa Rica is economically equal to the United States because she can buy the same amount of food for a certain amount of money in the U.S. when she visits her daughters that she can Costa Rica. I mention this, because it is clear that her views of Heredia and Costa Rica in general vary from those of Dr. Lizano’s. I look forward to experiencing more of the country and I hope to be able to have my own opinions of Costa Rican culture by the time the trip is over.
[Featured image: Parroquia Inmaculada Concepción de Heredia]