On a world map at www.15october.net; a red dot marks every city that joined in global protests Oct. 15 against corporate greed and failed economic policies that have left millions jobless. More than 1,000 dots mark cities from 82 countries where, simultaneously, thousands of people marched against social and economical injustice.
San José was marked with one of those red dots, and on Saturday, more than 300 people marched in the streets of the Costa Rican capital to be part of the global movement.
The “Movimiento de los Indignados” (“Movement of the Outraged”) began in Spain last May, when thousands of protesters occupied the main squares in Madrid and Barcelona. In Spain, the initiative is commonly known as 15-M, an acronym for May 15 – the date when people in more than 50 Spanish cities joined in anti-government protests.
The movement was itself inspired by other events, including the Greek revolt in 2008 and the Arab Spring in the Middle East. Recently in the United States, the Occupy Wall Street movement began in New York and quickly spread to other cities.
Protesters in Costa Rica, while inspired by international events, focused their anger on local problems.
“In Costa Rica we have been protesting for a number of reasons: the [Central America] Free Trade Agreement, mining, the state of the Social Security System, an in-vitro fertilization law, lack of a secular state, tax reform, the ‘Platina’ bridge and much more,” said Mayela Ruíz, who organized a number of social network protest events.
From Costa Rica to New York, social media sites like Twitter and Facebook played an important role in rallying crowds.
The Spanish Facebook group “Demo-cracia Real Ya” (“Real Democracy Now”), a main protest site, has almost 420,000 followers. Occupy Wall Street’s Facebook has more than 86,000 followers.
Information about last weekend’s events was readily available online. Most of the demonstrations, including protests in Costa Rica, were listed on Twitter under the hashtag #Globalchange, making it possible to follow events around the world in real time.
At least five different Costa Rican initiatives were planned on social media platforms. During the main event on Saturday, participants met at three locations in San José: Plaza de la Cultura, Plaza de la Democracia and Plaza Mora.
Organizers promoted the event through the Facebook group “Democracia Real Ya, Costa Rica,” a spin-off of the Spanish site.
“This is a spontaneous event with no official organizers, leaders or representatives. There is no program or agenda. We are here because we share the idea of a better future for our country,” Ruíz said.
The protest began at 11 a.m. with a small group of people gathered at the National Theater at the Plaza de la Cultura in downtown San José. Participants from Plaza de la Democracia and the Plaza Mora joined the bigger group in the Plaza de la Democracia, next to the National Museum.
Protesters marched from the Plaza de la Cultura towards the main post office and back, singing “indignados, indignados” (“outraged, outraged”), recalling the slogan of the Spanish movement.
In the Plaza de la Cultura, people expressed their anger at a number of Costa Rican issues.
For Luisa Esparducer, a Catalan from the Spanish city of Barcelona, attending the Costa Rican protest was a way of supporting her home country. But Esparducer believed that Costa Ricans also had reasons to feel outraged.
“I’ve been living in Costa Rica for 20 years and I have seen public schools fall into disrepair. Not a day goes by without some corruption scandal. If Costa Rica’s money wasn’t being stolen, we would truly be living in the Switzerland of Central America,” she said.
Costa Rican actress Rocío Carranza also attended the march, holding a sign criticizing the possibility of oil drilling in her country.
“I am outraged at the fact that Costa Rican authorities are considering making a profit off of our natural resources. I believe that this race to generate massive profits and increase consumption is inhumane,” she said.
The next event has already been scheduled: On Dec. 17, participants plan to camp overnight in the Plaza de la Cultura. More than 400 people have already confirmed on Facebook.