San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Himno Nacional

Russian seeks to change Costa Rica's national anthem

On the surface, Costa Rica’s national anthem seems to be all about peace and hard work. Unlike every other national anthem on the planet, there is barely even a mention of war.

But one line has come under fire lately for its alleged exclusion of Afro-Caribbean people, and a new bill submitted by petition to the Legislative Assembly seeks to change it.

Evgeny Kabanov, a Russian citizen currently in the process of becoming a naturalized Costa Rican, submitted the bill in January. Kabanov says the line, “The tenacious battle of fruitful toil reddens men’s faces” excludes the country’s Afro-Caribbean population because black people’s faces cannot get red.

“It is clear that the face of a person with black skin cannot turn red at all,” Kabanov wrote in a four-page proposal to the Legislative Assembly. To be more inclusive, Kabanov suggests changing just two letters of the anthem, converting the word “enrojece” (to redden), to “endurece” (to harden).

Several Afro-Caribbean leaders have come out in support of the bill, including Atlantic Port Authority Executive Chairwoman Ann McKinley and writer Eulalia Bernard.

“I think these initiatives are important because it gets us talking about things we don’t want to see and don’t want to hear, but that are there,” Bernard told Costa Rican news website

In Kabanov’s proposal, he references racism rooted in Costa Rica’s history. Black people could not obtain Costa Rican citizenship until 1949, even if they were born here. Prior to 1949, Afro-Caribbean people were forbidden to leave the Caribbean province of Limón.

Even in 2015 the country still struggles with race issues. Last week two black lawmakers, Epsy Campbell and Maureen Clarke, filed complaints of racist threats after the pair spoke out against public funding for the dramatic adaptation of the controversial novel, Cocorí. The book has been criticized for its racist undertones.

The bill still has a long way to go before it reaches the floor of the Legislative Assembly, but a related bill has already made headway. Last year, lawmakers voted unanimously to define Costa Rica in the Constitution as a multiethnic, plurinational country. The bill passed the first round of voting and must pass one more before it becomes law.

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Carlos Cordero Madrigal

So, why haven’t Mark Twain’s books been censored, for using the God-awful word “nigger” in both Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer? Go fix your own problems before pointing lesser ones.

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Isabel Quesada

Lord have mercy! This Liberals.are awful.

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I don’t think countries should change their national anthems, especially based on political correctness or to favor one group of people over another. When people start separating themselves into groups the “whole” suffers. Everyone should be a Costa Rican, or whatever they are in different countries. They have been trying to change the national anthem or even the words in the US for awhile now because it’s too hard to sing and remember the words. Well then learn them, it’s not that difficult. They try to change the names of our sports teams. Unless a national anthem is something particularly horrible in the first place they should just leave it alone. This is just my opinion, nothing more.

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I like the thinking of the Russian. Racism, whether conscious or unconscious, needs exposing and redressing. Ironically, working out in the sun only reddens the skin of the melanin-deficient (“white”) people temporarily. Eventually it darkens skin to beautiful dark browns. Over millenia, as the African example shows, it blackens skin. More irony, that beautiful moreno look –a gift of the genes of the first peoples of the Américas (“Indians”) is everywhere apparent in the mestizaje of the Costa Ricans. Red-faced, sunburned tourists from northern climes look completely out of place here in the Neotropics. On that account alone, the national anthem should be changed.

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