San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

The Other Guy’s Point of View

Sometimes we just have to look at it from the other guy’s point of view. The following is my translation of an article by a professor Julio Vindas that appeared in the June 1 edition of the daily Diario Extra. You may not agree with everything he says, and you may not like it, but there it is. A certain segment of the Costa Rican population feels just this way.

Strangers in Our Land

(In memory of Belisario and Rosa,

Organos Beach, Paquera)

Prof. Julio Vindas Rodríguez

Article published in the Diario Extra, June 1, 2007

They arrived at OrganosBeach when it was nothing but brush-infested boondocks and rattlesnakes, and with only a machete they opened up a space to the sun so they could sit down cross-legged on the sand. They put up a hut with mangrove poles, paved the floor with dirt. They built a cot and adorned it with the delights of love and in a dark corner put a sputtering and boisterous hearth, where that coastal Indian lady first taught me to pat out tortillas in the air.

I met them more than 30 years ago, when the almond trees they had planted themselves had already grown and the shade of delicate coconut trees embraced the warmth of the hut with their freshness. Summer after summer, we inaugurated Christmases and ends and beginnings of years in an uproar of guitars and booze – any date was a pretext for merriment. A thousand times we lit that wood-burning hearth, out of which filed nougats, fried pork rind, fried fish, clams and oysters in briny bacchanal.

Little by little, the years have flown by, carried away on wings by north winds and moon changes, and, with them, Belisario Argüero and the unforgettable Indian Rosa … I could continue with this description of that which was, until a few years ago, the coastal Costa Rica of simple friendship and peaceful passing of time, where anyone who arrived with a tent on nearly any beach enjoyed without hassles or anyone’s permission his short or long vacation, when the access paths had no threatening “Private Property” or “Access Forbidden” signs.

It was the time when we Ticos, without the necessity of being landowners, were the proprietors of our paradisiacal country, if only for short periods, when the possibility existed of touring the marvelous geography of our land from one end to the other.

Nowadays, our country is no longer ours. All we have to do is take a trip through Guanacaste, the formerly folkloric province, pitiful and rapidly being reduced to a vulgar souvenir postcard, promoted and auctioned off in the glamorous brochures of tawdry foreign shops. The voracity for foreign capital (almost always of doubtful precedence) has taken hold of the majority of paradisiacal locations, where lavish fivestar hotels and condominiums pander only to foreign tourism paying in dollars, dollars that enter and leave the country without benefiting in the least the people of the country, while the average Costa Rican is ever more relegated to flounder around in his economic limitations, because for the majority it has become prohibitive to take advantage of these neocolonial enclaves of pleasure and diversion; and the worst, the depressing and shameful thing, is that this happens in collusion with figureheads, country-sellers disguised as politicians, who do not hesitate to violate unscrupulously their vow to their country, making compromises and finagling underhanded bribes for their own benefit, without caring that they are relegating to the highest bidder not only our future, but that of those yet unborn.

I ask myself: will it continue being this much-vaunted attraction of foreign investment that the approval of CAFTA (the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States) pretends to foment?

This cannot nor ought to continue this way. I know of cases of small farmers who, of necessity, sold their land and wound up with no money and no land and ended as workers on their old property.

Finally, it is worth bringing to mind these verses from the song “The Curse of Malinche” by the singer Gabino Palomares:

Today, in full 21st century,

The blondes keep arriving,

And we open the door,

And we call them friends.


But if an Indian arrives

Tired from walking the mountain,

We humiliate him and see him

As a stranger on his land.

The devastating thing about this infamous reality is that by now we Ticos are already practically strangers in our own land.


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