Asking Why in Costa Rica

Throughout the predeparture meetings and reading the Costa Rican Culture Smart book, we have learned a lot about what to expect from Costa Rican culture. It is easy to just accept these notions of normality, but we are presented with the question of “why”. Today in a lecture from Dr. José Sánchez, we were given information useful for filling in the blanks. He discussed basic economic models, as well as describing the one used in Costa Rica. He gave us a brief history, accounting for trends and events in each decade from the 1970s to the 2000s. In addition, we were provided with some statistics to indicate the state of the Costa Rican economy.

One question that arose after hearing the lecture was “why have politics changed in Costa Rica recently?”. Within the last decade, Costa Rica transitioned from a two-party system to a multi-party system. Costa Ricans were developing critical feelings of the government and cases of corruption broke their trust. With this system, the citizens have more options to choose from and do not have to simply choose one of two people to lead them. It is great to have more options, but I believe in practice the idea does not work out as well. To win, a singular candidate must get 40 percent of the votes, and this can sometimes even be hard in a race between two people, let alone four. If no one meets the mark in the first round, a second round ensues where the top two candidates compete for the position. With this rule in place, the election virtually returns to one of two-parties. Despite this, each round of elections different parties are capable of being the final two, so in my opinion the change helps promote democracy and hopefully restores the Ticos’ confidence in their government.

Another question I ask is “why and when did protecting the environment become important to Costa Rican government?”. In the 1990s, it was recognized that the swift deforestation was creating an environment where farmers could no longer farm and produce crops due to infertile soil. The natural resources of the country were degrading, and the unemployment rate was rising. Because of this, the Costa Rican government set in place new policies that focused on conserving the elements. Since then, the environment has played a huge role in the economy.

My last question is “why is coffee so important to Costa Rican culture?”. Coffee has played a large role in Costa Rican culture since 1798, when coffee plantations were given away for free to anyone who wanted to work. The soil in Costa Rica was perfect for growing coffee beans. Because of the large number of farmers growing the crop and the excellent yield, coffee became a huge export. Throughout history, coffee has played an irreplaceable role in Costa Rica’s economy, and has aided in the growth of the country, such as its infrastructure. In general, it has also been a tradition for Ticos to drink coffee every day. It is no surprise why coffee has had such an impact on the way people live in Costa Rica.

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