San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Activists Call New Plastic Twenties Racist

The new plastic twenty córdoba notes introduced into circulation by the Central Bank last month, which some lawmakers have decried as illegal, has caused another controversy this week among those who claim the image printed on the bills is racist.

Black activist leader Dorotea Wilson said she experience “culture shock” the first time she saw the new twenties, which picture black women dancing around the maypole, an indigenous woman grinding corn and a typical bamboo shack found on the Caribbean coast.

“This is the typical image that they (the Pacific coast population) have of the population of the Caribbean coast,” Wilson said, adding that the images are very “folkloric.”

The Nica Times tried to get reaction from Caribbean-born Debora Grandison, the government’s Special Women’s Ombudsman for Human Rights. When asked for comment on the bill’s artistic content, Grandison asked The Nica Times to call her back in 15 minutes. But then she didn’t answer our calls, return phone messages or answer e-mails.

Some younger activists say the images are no big deal. Shirlene Green, of the Afro-Caribbean Women’s Network, said she didn’t think the imagery is offensive at all, and said she gives the government points for representing the Caribbean coast on the new bills.

Others, however, say they still haven’t seen the new bills or haven’t yet made up their minds. Brigette Budier, a Nicaraguan representative to the Central American Parliament (Parlacen) who earlier this year accused a downtown Managua nightclub of racism (NT, Feb. 26), told The Nica Times that she and a group of other black activists were meeting this week precisely to discuss the content of the new twenties. At press time, the group had not announced its verdict.


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