I would probably come study Cartago
Originally passing through for motorcycle repair, gas, and to see the church, I ended up staying the night when I met a mechanic who offered me passage for the night. What I found was a pleasant city almost devoid of alcohol or bad influence.
What’s unique about this city is that it is very clean– no grunge, no old man asking for money to spend on alcohol. It is straighter and well kept. People were inside at 7:30. I saw one painting, families on their porches. No dogs barked as I walk past, nothing menacing or unknown here. I keep coming back to it: is this what a world is like without alcohol? No crime, no grafitti, no trash– a beautiful set of churches and parks and historic structures. I saw an at-risk age group of teenagers… on the church steps talking. Maybe symbolic of something: is this what Christian values holds together?
I imagine hard social indicators would reflect this tranquility I observe intuitively: inequality, unemployment, crime, dropout rate, teenage pregnancy, etc. (Notice we don’t really have any indicators for well-being other than money– here it would be high income per capita, if my suspicions are correct. Most people own their own variety stores.) Often times cities in the developing world bring opportunity but also huge areas of underdevelopment. “There are some barrios, further out,” affirms the mechanic, “but in the city everyone works.” Neat to see how development works without much external influence.
There was plenty of local variety in the shops and services provided. It is a full-out city with 170,000 population, (which floods with people for a yearly ceremony August 1st- more on this soon!). I noticed by riding around that there was no hotel offerings, no fast food or chain vendors, mechanics abound, all of which suggest a unique 20th-century pre-globalization feel (pre-Americanization? pre-Industrialization?). I wondered if Ticos would be frustrated by this lack of common services or lack of imports , but from talking with them it seems that they know and appreciate very well their local vendor scene.
Appreciation- this is the sense I felt on my short stay there. By human nature it is very hard to find, and culturally even harder to think about. I know I won’t have time to stay and be with them to find out, but perhaps grad school at the Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigacion y Ensenanza (CATIE) would permit some further exploration. If you are more interested in Cartago, it’s wikipedia page is short but nice as a visual: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartago,_Costa_Rica I hope you enjoyed this brief description, as always leave comments and check out the pages for more Costa Rica!
Costa Rica 2009.