San Jose: The Pittsburgh of Costa Rica

Our fourth day in Costa Rica involved a long day of touring the country’s beautiful capital: San Jose. The city of San Jose contains a large amount of history and is full of monuments and buildings which represent Costa Rica’s road to independence and prosperity. However, one of if not the primary reason for Costa Rica’s long term success is the country’s coffee and banana trade. After Costa Rica was granted its independence, the country found itself in somewhat of a stagnant state as the Tico’s were unsure of what to do with this newfound freedom. The first step Costa Rica took towards becoming a recognized and affluent nation was to focus its efforts on something specific which would increase its economic status. Obviously enough, the Ticos landed on the coffee and banana industries. The reason Costa Rica determined coffee and bananas to be most beneficial for the economy was because of the country’s ideal growing situation. Due to the many volcanoes in the area producing mineral rich soil and the overall climate, Costa Rica is a prime area to plant coffee and grow bananas. As far as San Jose is concerned, the city used this economic growth in order to build an affluent area full of trade and commerce, including their famous coffee and bananas.

Having lived in Pittsburgh and having visited San Jose on multiple occasions, I have the ability to accurately compare and contrast the two cities. While there may not be a lot of obvious similarities between the two, there is in fact one aspect of the cities which are similar. One similarity between Pittsburgh and San Jose is the dependence both the cities had on a certain feature of their economies. Pittsburgh, as many are well aware, is known as the “Steel City” due to the history it has with the steel industry. Steel was the focal point of the city’s economy as built it up both figuratively and literally. Once the steel industry collapsed, however, Pittsburgh went through a crisis as it sought to discover a solution to their economic downfall. As the years went by, Pittsburgh became involved in multiple other industries such as banking and medical which ultimately saved the city from its recession. While San Jose did not necessarily experience a collapse in the coffee and banana industry, the city was incredibly dependent on the staple crops of coffee and bananas as it stimulated the economy in a way unseen before. As San Jose developed, it began to diversify itself in similar ways in order to decrease its dependance on the crops and increase the economy through other methods.

A unique part of San Jose which is certainly not seen in Pittsburgh or any cities in the US is the lack of street address. Coming from an outside perspective, my first instinct was to assume that this system was inefficient and that our way of classifying roads with specific addresses is superior. However, I have realized that this is not necessarily true. While the Costa Rican system of identifying directions may be inconvenient for tourists, the natives have used this system for ages and therefor have become accustomed to it. By giving specific directions based off of popular areas and landmarks, the Ticos have gotten by just as well if not better than if they used a similar system as the US. I believe that Costa Rica’s system of directions without addresses is ideal considering its current situation.

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