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January 25th, 2009
Some time ago, I blogged about the increasing tension between Costa Rica and its immediate neighbor to the North, Nicaragua. I thought it was one of my better semi-humorous efforts (see it here), but I was recently taken to task for my opinions by alert reader EJ. While I think EJ perhaps overreacted to my post, his comments are really good if a bit emotional, and are worth discussion as the complex relationship between Costa Rica and Nicaragua is something we deal with every day.
There are a huge number of Nicaraguans living here in Costa Rica. In fact, there are about eight times more Nicaraguans than North Americans.
There is some bad blood between the two countries dating back over 100 years, and while there have been no armed conflicts (thank God as we have no army here) there have been some wars of words about navigating the San Juan river that separates the two countries plus ongoing criticism of how Nicas are treated here. The was also the dog incident, since resolved in court and finding the police not at fault. Nicaragua claims that Costa Rica stole Guanacaste when they annexed it back in 1825. Costa Ricans disagree, and if I have learned anything living here, it is to NOT even have an opinion oN this topic. It is, however, a thorn in the side of many Nicaraguans.
Some Nicas are here legally, but a fairly number are here without papers. They arrive via passport, then like some North Americans… they never leave. Unlike some North Americans, they do not leave the country every ninety days to renew their visa (though this practice is not legal… it is still done by those scofflaws not willing or perhaps not having the money, income or respect for Costa Rica law) .
Many Ticos are not fond of the Nicaraguans and blame them for just about everything… from crime to bad weather. I do not. My admittedly limited experience with Nicas in my home area and on some work projects has been very satisfactory.
While certainly those living in the slum areas (La Carpio for example) certainly commit their share of crime, their living conditions are awful and they do as most poor do in this world… anything to survive.
“I should like to see just how fast the Costa Rican economy would crumble if those undesirable Nicas should be deported from their low-income, blue collar jobs which most Costa Ricans think they’re too good for.”
He makes a good point.
You will have to search long and hard to find a Costa Rican housekeeper. It is the Nicaraguan women that clean the homes and raise the children of a whole lot of Ticos and foreign ex-pats living here. Many are not documented (here legally) and those who do make the effort to get documented (like Maritza, my housekeeper) have to jump through a LOT of hoops at immigration and put up with world class harassment when attempting to simply get their domestic work permit. It can be done… Maritza did it.. but it is nasty hard. Why must it be so hard when someone wants to be legal?
These women often arrive in Costa Rica living their children behind. Maritza makes one trip to Nicaragua each year around Christmas to visit her three girls, all under 15. I just cannot imagine how hard this must be, but with unemployment running over 40% (last I heard) in Nicaragua, she can earn a very decent living here. Her salary, of course, is wired back to her kids twice each month. As she IS legal, she can cross the border without issue, and more important, she can return.
Many Niaraguan men come here with great skill in working concrete… something that is present in just about every new home and all office buildings in Costa Rica. It is my opinion that Nicaraguans build, and have built, Costa Rica. I have had occasion to visit a pretty large number of building sites, and the workers are nearly all Nicaraguan. Two homes were recently constructed near me and, being nosey, I supervised! I saw no goofing off, they showed up every day to work and the homes, now more than a year old, both look great. OK, one doesn’t, but that is beause the architect had to have had a drinking problem.
As I write this, I am not sure what is my point. Partly it is a response to EJ and an overdue validation of his comments, but more, it is to just try to focus my own thoughts as to just just why this tension goes on. It seems pointless… but then I think about Blacks, Whites and Latinos in the USA, and just think… oh, yeah… that!Filed under Costa Rica, Crime in Costa Rica, Immigration Law, Nicaragua, Politics | Comments (10)