Hola, mis amigos. Today was our third day in Heredia. As I interact with my host family, her friends and family, and other local Ticos, I have been able to understand much about their culture and their mannerisms. Things are done much differently here than in the United States. This lead me to think about and wrestle with a complicated question: Why are Ticos and Costa Rican Culture the way they are? I figured this would be best understood by learning more about what Ticos have been through; the history of the people.
Luckily, a man from the University we are working with delivered a fun, informative presentation about just that (Ticos). I asked myself some questions related to this topic, and now, I will do my best to answer them.
1) Por què is activism and freedom of speech so acceptable here?
I believe that this can be attributed to the location of the capital. Immediately after declaring independence, Costa Ricans of the four provinces (including Heredia and San Jose) decided that they would rotate the capital among the four provinces to ensure equality and fairness. The first move was from Cartago to San Jose, and it was the only move. This ended up being great for the country since San Jose was easily the most liberal of the four. Because of this, the laws they passed and the framework of government they created exemplified freer ideals. Of course, I agree with liberal ideas. Even in America, I could not imagine living in a world controlled by government or dictators, such as North Korea. I believe activism spurs new ways of thinking and freedom of speech promotes truth; without these, a country can never reach its full potential.
2) Por què is diversity accepted here?
This might be like ideas of liberalism and be credited to the general happiness of the population too, but I think more importantly, this idea relates to Costa Rica being part of a large trade route in the past. Many Europeans had to pass through Costa Rica during colonial times to reach places like Guatemala. In addition to this, when building the railroad, a lot of the workers were not Costa Rican. Mainly, since the beginning of the country’s origin, it has been filled with multiple races, and these people became colleagues, friends, and even family, sometimes. They are used to diversity, and it has not caused them much harm. Because of this, they are a welcoming people. Since I am black in a predominantly white country, and since I have experienced direct racism, I can appreciate this so much. It means a lot to me that, outside of stereotypes about Americans in general, people do not think less of me because of my skin. I also believe that diversity helps an economy to thrive. When these different perspectives come together under one roof, everyone becomes a little bit smarter and can understand a little bit more about the world!
3) Por què are Ticos so carefree, calm, and unconcerned with structure in relation to time?
Ticos are much laxer than Americans when it comes to certain deadlines and punctuality and to understand why, it is helpful to understand colonial Costa Rica. At one time, Costa Rica was a part of the Captaincy General of Guatemala, which was a possession of (new) Spain. Our instructor explained that most of the power lied with Guatemala and Spain. Obviously, Spain was very far away, and Guatemala, though part of the same continent, was separated from Costa Rica by three or so provinces. Costa Rica was a “border,” so rules were not enforced so heavily upon Costa Rica. Perhaps, this naturally led them to become a freer people. Costa Ricans did what they wanted to, and it seems similar nowadays. Ticos operate on something called “Tico Time,” and it would drive many Americans mad, especially in business. Basically, if dinner is set for 5:30pm, it really means around 5:45pm or 6:00pm. I have witnessed this, and it is true. Although I thought this might be troubling at first, it is not too big of a deal. After all, why rush? Personally, I wouldn’t mind operating on Tico time, especially for events like class or 7:30am trips to coffee plantations; however, I stand by and agree with the U.S. in that times need to be set and respected to get anything done. Perhaps, a combination of la hora gringa(for business) and Tico time(for social) would be the perfect blend.