We’ve been here about fourteen days, and I’ve decided I love Costa Rica. There is only one reason for my definitive answer, and that is because this is the most authentic country I’ve been to in terms of how it discusses its indigenous people.
My introduction to the country began with our visit to the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum. What stood out the most is that the museum begins with the story of Costa Rican’s indigenous people and then transcends to an understanding of how colonialism affected the culture and land.
Placards accompanying artifacts included phrases like this:
The contact and encounter between European culture and the native populations caused a change in their customs, due to the inclusion of a new way of thinking that was forced upon them by the Europeans.
The change impacted object production and its symbolism. As a result, iconic religious representations embodying indigenous beliefs ceased.
See what I mean?
I’ve visited the British Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and Museo Nacional del Prado, just to name a few. I’ve never been to a museum that was honest about its artifacts, how they attained them, and the colonialism that occurred.
My affinity for Costa Rica grew during our Bites and Sights walking tour. We began in front of a statue called Los Presentes, a national landmark at the entrance of the bank. According to our tour guide, this statue was created to honor the farmers who created an economy for the country.
That day, we also learned about Manuel Vargas, an artist who only sculpts big women. La Chola sits right in the center of Plaza de la Cultura to honor hardworking Costa Rican women.
Similarly, El Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica was eventually built with Costa Rican taxpayer money; however, for a long time Eurocentric sculptures were on display. Those sculptures are still there, but so is Juan Ramón Bonilla’s piece, Héroes de la Miseria, an homage to the working-class people who paid for the theater, but who weren’t allowed to enter it for a very long time.
Do you see the pattern here? This theme is why I say I love the country. Costa Rican’s citizens seem to constantly celebrate their indigenous culture, while simultaneously reminding themselves and others that Spaniards did some awful things to get them to this current point. There’s a constant juxtaposition of multiple cultures present in everything they do.
It’s an ever-present land acknowledgment that is refreshing for me as a US citizen. I can’t imagine the US honoring so-called Native Americans for letting us take their land, African Americans and Chinese people for working and building the land and admitting that part of the country belonged to Mexico. In fact, it’s almost like we do the complete opposite in the States. We ignore and deny America was ever anything but the America we see.
Costa Rica has shown me that it is possible for a country to be authentic about its roots, while also being honest about how it came to be. And for that, I say…I L❤️VE Costa Rica!
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