Monday, July 17, 2006

Discrimination, Jungle Style

I very barely squeezed out of a work trip to Bogota Colombia this week. I was not at all interested in going there, much less into the jungle to supervise a television commercial shoot with a crazy English director who has little to no regard for the real dangers the Colombian jungle houses. I think it will take someone getting swallowed whole by an anaconda for him to realize that. Not to mention the kidnapping problem they have there. I’ve met many people from Colombia (including my landlords) who were kidnapped and held for ransom when they were kids. It’s literally a cottage industry there. People actually stand outside the grocery stores and kidnap kids and hold them ransom for groceries. They especially target Americans because they think were all monied. It is strongly recommended that Americans not visit Colombia unless they know exactly what they are getting into.

I’ve learned a lot about the state of affairs in many Central and South American countries since being in Costa Rica. You hear a lot of talk about Nicaragua (Costa Rica’s “Mexico”) There are thousands of Nicaraguans fleeing here to Costa Rica every year to escape unbearable living conditions. It really puts things into perspective when you realize that Nica’s (yes, it’s dangerously close) see Costa Rica’s average $300 a month wages as their pie in the sky. The Costa Ricans HATE Nicaraguans. They openly despise them in conversation, and on the street. The Nicaraguans are the underclass workers here. They clean houses, pick up the trash and work in your yard for pennies. Very similar to the jobs illegal Mexicans do in the United States. Similar to the US, there has been a governmental tolerance here for years because they realize these people provide services to the citizens that would go undone if they weren’t here. Also like illegal Mexicans in the US, the Nica’s tax the system. They get free healthcare and social security, even if they are not legal.

“Politically correct” Americans would NEVER appreciate the attitudes toward other races and cultures here in Costa Rica. The word for black people here is “nigger”, it’s used unabashedly and to their faces. Nica’s are literally spit on in the street, Columbians, Panamanians, and Mexicans are all also hated here. There is even a level of discrimination that happens to Americans here, I’ve witnessed it many times. There is open discrimination and hostility towards a lot of people here. Francisco, ( well adjusted, educated, Costa Rican BF), won’t let my maid (who’s Nica) touch his clothes even though they are very friendly with each other. He was raised to believe that ‘Nicas’ are dirty. She accidentally washed a shirt of his a few weeks back and he refuses to wear it now. That’s some conviction there, when a ‘Nica’ comes between a gay man and his clothes.

You have to take a step back and try not to apply “American Values” to the way of life in this part of the world. The Latin cultures especially are very proud by nature and that pride sometimes spills over into animosity towards one another. The Costa Ricans are not violent people, hell they don’t even have an Army here, but they do have very strong beliefs and some of them go counter to what Americans see as ‘human’. I will say this, if people in the US think they are “oppressed”, I’ve got a free room for ‘em here in Costa Rica. They’ll soon realize that they’ve got a pretty good deal going right where they are.


the doc said...

Interesting, informative, and entertaining commentary.


It is such a coincidence that you have this post and I was explaining why my friend's Columbian friend has this air superiority over other Latino's. I also heard about how Costa Rican's believe they are superior to their neighbors maybe because the majority of the inhabitants are direct descendants of the Spanish with little to not inter-mixing.

I agree with you to a point about applying American values to other cultures, but treating people with respect and dignity is a human value. (Holy Shit I sound like a liberal) Arbitrarily perpetuating these stereotypes to demean a person should not be acceptable, because it only leads to prejudice and hatred. For example, in Poland they believe all gays are pedophiles which I think people should engage and educate the Polish that this is not true. Just my point of view.

P.S. Don't get taken by FERC.

Pookie Pie said...

I've heard that. But it kind of begs the question: is it better to have the discrimination and prejudice out in the open so you know what you're dealing with? or under the surface where you don't know who is really being honest with you?

Not saying that either is better... just saying.

StratoCade said...

I hope they don't discriminake behind the fack of me being gay... Fuh real yo.

Jason M said...

Well as long as you're not a Black Nicaraguan drag queen who has a penchant for columbian men, you'll be just fine ;)

dcmasshole said...

A colleague of mine, is heading down to Costa Rica to by a house at a resort in Guncaste and someone said that foreigners can not own land, is that true?

Jason M said...

Foreigners can own land here. But I believe they must also secure a certain type of residency within a certin timeframe. Banks will not give you a mortgage for foreign property, so you have to pay in- full in cash.

I would strongly suggest doing all sort of due diligence before purchasing land in Costa Rica. Horror stories arent hard to come by.