The Intersection of Machismo Culture and Costa Rican History

One of the only culture shocks I have experienced here in Heredia is the amount of cat-calling that occurs. Unlike the US, the accompaniment of a man has no effect on the car horns, yells, or piercing stares. Even the distance placed between the female and male does not affect the cat-calling, as I experienced it while taking the above photo from a tall bridge. This side of Costa Rica, while intimidating to a foreigner like myself, has interested me as it seems Costa Rica in a lot of ways is very advanced. Their mindfulness surrounding electricity consumption and increased focus on education and health care puts them above many other countries, even the US. However, the ideologies circulating through these people that care for the Earth so much also cultivate a barrier towards women.

When looking at the history of Costa Rica, women were not granted voting rights until 1949. This is almost thirty years behind the 19th Amendment which gave American women full suffrage, and yet Costa Rica has already had a woman president. I believe this machismo culture is in part a result of the stress of tradition in Costa Rica. Tradition, while it carries the life of past generations, ensuring certain parts of the family are kept to a standard made by an elder, also involves looking back to the past. For women in Costa Rica, steps are being made towards greater equality. However, these steps are exclusively forwards. Therefore, the traditional stance on most issues negates the strides women are making in current times. For example, the traditional outlook of the male as the head of the house, reinforces a hierarchy of men on top. This outlook would’ve been in place during any previous traditions made in the family, which allows them to remain relevant. This in turn allows for behaviors such as cat-calling.

One can not speak about the history and culture of Costa Rico without recognizing the influence of tradition. This can be seen in many aspects of life, even the food. When speaking to Dr. Laura Ramirez, a historian of Costa Rica, her face lit up when she was able to talk about her families’ tradition of eating olla de carne (beef stew) with a glass of milk. She admitted this combination is not popular in Costa Rica but that it was the memory and tradition of it that made it her favorite. Obviously, traditions like this are not fortifying cat-calling. I believe the notion that tradition and learning from the past takes precedent over growing towards an ever changing future helps to support the machismo culture in Costa Rica.

(Obviously, this assumption could be widely off mark as I have a very limited understanding of the deep inner workings of this country’s culture.)


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