Exploring the Capitol of Costa Rica

The banana and coffee industries paved the way for Costa Rica to become a larger part of the global economy. From the moment we arrived in San José, there was a different energy than in Heredia. For starters, the train ride into he city was an immediate reminder of the direct effects these industries have had on Costa Rica, and similarly the effect the railroad has had on these industries. The train was created from Alajuela to Limón, via San José, on the Caribbean coast in order to transport goods to the country’s main port. The banana industry was essentially born on the tracks of the railroad, as they were at first only meant to feed the workers building the railroad. The trains were then also able to transport them when the banana industry took off.

Parts of San José helped to curb my homesickness, as some parts of cities remain constant worldwide. Today I noticed that each of these cities has a very specific thing to offer to their respective countries, and that is what has made them successful. Pittsburgh was once exclusively known for steel production, just as San José serves as a gateway to the coffee and banana industry as Costa Rica’s capitol. This results in a similar energy about the city. Around it’s center, both are filled with bustling people, and there is significant traffic just like Pittsburgh. We also passed through both quieter, more safe parts of the city, as well as areas that required a warning of pickpocketing and were significantly louder. Coincidentally, Andrew Carnegie, a well-known Pittsburgh industrialist had some influence in San José. In his philanthropist days, Carnegie donated money to Costa Rica to build a new court. Similarly, he donated significant amounts of money towards education and literacy efforts in Pittsburgh.

One thing that did not change between Heredia and San José is the confusing structure of the streets. I have found that the directions people use here make nearly perfect sense to locals. This makes sense as most have grown up in the area or are very familiar with popular destinations. The directions use landmarks usually, which makes it very easy for foreigners to make mistakes. If one were to accidentally pass a landmark that someone should’ve turned left at, all future directions are very difficult to follow, if not impossible. I believe the current system seems to work for the locals, however, Costa Rica is a growing country. As Costa Rica increases their tourism industry, they must look into how difficult the system is for tourists. Moving forward, I believe San José should look into progressively shifting their streets and avenues towards using numbers, instead of blocked metric amounts. This would be a simple change that could help with the confusion about which directions the streets and avenues increase in, while allowing locals to still use their system that works for them.

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