12.01.2013 - 13.01.2013
Costa Rica is absolutely gorgeous, and I am thankful for the opportunity to visit this country. The Ticos are friendly and helpful, the roadsides are clean, and the views are stunning. However, it is ironic that in this land to where folks flock for a taste of the wild, it seems the least adventurous of our travels so far. One cannot swing a spider monkey without hitting a billboard for an adventure tour, "remote" ecolodge, or canopy tour. There are certainly upsides to this gringofication for the Ticos: the highest standard of living in Central America, a compulsory education system for school-age children, national healthcare, and jobs, albeit in the tourism industry. Some downsides include high prices on day-to-day items, as well as property. In fact, Costa Rica is too expensive for us to consider living here. How must this affect the locals trying to make a home for themselves?
Yes, we are gringos, driving our big ol' Jeep through the middle of this beautiful land, staying at motels and/or camping in their wonderful national parks, enjoying a hot shower occasionally, and eating at restaurants. Still makes me sad to see these kind, eager-to-please folks so beholdin' to the gringo.
Along with Nicaragua and El Salvador, Costa Rica was affected (negatively) by Reagan's contras. Unwanted, the Contras established themselves in Costa Rica, staged guerilla raids from here, and built a secret jungle airstrip to fly in weapons. Makes ya proud to be 'murkan, doesn't it?
The war divided Costa Rica, with Conservatives, hell-bent on the anticommunist crusade, pushing to re-establish the military. On a positive note, the opposing side organized a march in San José of 20,000+ demonstrators for peace. 44-year-old Oscar Arias Sánchez was elected, and resolved to reassert Costa Rica's independence and kick the Contras out. Soon thereafter, the US ambassador quit.
My favorite part of this little history lesson is the public ceremony of Costa Rican schoolchildren planting trees on the secret CIA airfield.
Arias won the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize for his part in the peace plan that ended the Nicaraguan war. Interestingly, his Vice President was a woman: Laura Chinchilla, who is now president. "Cool," I first thought. Not so cool. She is the polar opposite of Arias. Chinchilla is a rabid social conservative, fiercely opposed to abortion, same-sex marriage and emergency contraception. How unusual.
Now that I have that off my chest, we're going to enjoy the heck out of this country!