When I began writing for The Tico Times in 1989, Oscar Arias was helping Central Americans disarm the Cold-War conflicts that had caused so much death and suffering in the region. As a biologist, however, I was more interested in reporting on a less dramatic but nonetheless insidious war – the steady destruction of the region’s wilderness and other natural resources.
At The Tico Times, I had the good fortune to find an editor – Dery Dyer – who shared my enthusiasm for nature. She was happy to let me cover an array of ecological issues for the paper in the ensuing years, from threats to Costa Rica’s rainforests to efforts to save the sea turtles that nest on its beaches. But Dery and her father, Richard, were not only supportive of my ecological obsession, they were animal lovers to a degree that made my interest in flora and fauna seem a bit academic.
The Tico Times’ masthead may celebrate the fact that it is Central America’s Leading English-Language Newspaper, but it could just as well read “Central America’s Leading Refuge for Wayward Dogs, Cats and Journalists.” There was a time when it seemed to me that The Tico Times acquired a new pet every week, either a stray that Dery had recently rescued, or an old family member who was down on a sabbatical from the Dyer enclave in the hills of Escazú.
I was a confirmed tree hugger and sporadic bird watcher, and I’ve been known to moan at taciturn troops of howler monkeys, but there were moments when writing an article in The Tico Times implied at bit more communion with my four-legged cousins than I really desired, at least when facing a deadline. The day I discovered that a kitten had peed on my notebook, I decided it was time to start working from home.
That said, I have always admired Dery’s commitment to helping animals as I have The Tico Times’ editorial commitment to the planet. I don’t know how many animals she has rescued over the years, but I’m sure the numbers rival those of the freelance writers she has saved from starvation.
I suppose that I could add myself to the list of rescued strays. Certainly I’ve appeared at The Tico Times’ doorstep in various states of scruffiness, and worse. I do know that the reporting I did for the paper was vital to my development as a journalist and environmentalist, and as I have moved from journalism more into environmentalism, I’ve come to appreciate the paper’s commitment to our planet even more.
Despite its limited resources, The Tico Times has always done a better job of covering environmental issues than Costa Rica’s major media, and I hope it will continue to do so for the next 50 years. It is a service that benefits all the country’s inhabitants, from its incontinent kittens to its itinerant hacks.
(David Dudenhoefer was regular Tico Times contributor for most of the 1990s. After returning to the United States in 1999 to get an MA at the University of Illinois at Chicago, he worked in Asia and Latin America as a consultant, freelancer and, eventually, as a communications coordinator for the Rainforest Alliance. He currently lives in Lima, Peru with his wife, María Angélica Vega, and her two children, Marcel and Isabel.)