San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Op-Ed

The election was over, and yet we marched

See also: Hundreds turn out for San José Women’s March

When my family moved from the United States to Monteverde, Costa Rica, for a year, my husband and I were seeking more time with our school-age children, less work, and a break from what sometimes felt like our over-commitment to community organizing and involvement back in our small town in Maine.

This spirit of emigration and new beginnings is in part what defines Monteverde. In the 1950s, a group of U.S. Quaker pacifists settled the region after some of their young men were imprisoned in Alabama for refusing to register for the draft. The judge who sentenced them said, “If you like this country, you should obey the laws of this country, and if you don’t like it, you ought to move out.”

And so they left. Some criticized these emigrants for giving up, for escapism, but Quakers have a long history of social action, ranging from antislavery to suffragist movements, and these settlers did not simply wash their hands of the United States. They joined with their Tico neighbors, as well as conservationists, artists, and anti-war activists, who followed them to this corner of the Cordillera de Tilarán. Together they founded a women’s arts cooperative, established the largest private reserve in Central America, worked for justice in prisons, founded schools and institutes for sustainability education and, more recently, set goals to make the Monteverde region carbon-neutral.

Two weeks ago, when Monteverde resident Katy VanDusen invited others to join her in a sister march to the Women’s March on Washington, as usual, my neighbors stepped up. One woman organized a sign-making party; another distributed song lyrics for the march; a man printed out forms to register folks on the day of the gathering; and 250 people emerged from their remote cloud forest homes with signs advocating for justice, not a single one mentioning U.S. President Donald Trump.

As I looked around the assembled crowd, I realized I was not gazing at a bunch of liberals out to assuage their frustrations with the current political climate. I was not witnessing progressive posturing. Instead, this was Monteverde flexing its collective moral muscles, demonstrating the values that many here live day in and day out.

Some have questioned why non-U.S. citizens, or citizens living abroad, bothered to march on Saturday. Why should we care about U.S. politics?  I’m certainly a believer in the interconnectedness of humanity. John Donne’s words come to mind in moments like these: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” But at a purely selfish level, living abroad highlights for me more than ever the repercussions of U.S. policy around the world, and why we all have a stake in what happens in the White House.

Take climate change, for example. Here on the continental divide, rare animals migrate up the mountain, adapting to rising temperatures, while some at the top, like the famed golden toad, have disappeared. Climate change is disproportionately caused by global superpowers, but Costa Rica disproportionately loses with diminished biodiversity.

Another realm in which United States policy has a direct impact on life in Costa Rica is immigration. Immigrants account for 9 percent of the population of Costa Rica, including refugees and migrants, many of whom are hoping to make passage to the United States. The shock waves of changes in United States immigration policy will certainly be felt here.

Read more: There’s no such thing as a ‘pure Costa Rican’

Monteverde has proven a welcoming and inclusive home for my family this year, in large part because our neighbors aren’t the type to sit back. Perhaps like other communities heavily populated by immigrants, they understand that society works when everyone chips in. The march was a good reminder to me and my family that though we are on leave from icy roads and snow shoveling this year, there’s no taking a break from political involvement. Healthy democracies demand the constant engagement of their citizens.

So, when a Monteverde friend reminded us of the U.S. congressional switchboard number after the march, we pulled out a pen and wrote it down. We’ve signed up to participate in the Women’s March “10 Actions for 100 Days” campaign. And we can already see the increased vigor in the step of Monteverde’s many activists. As President Obama said, “Democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.” I am grateful for the reminder.

Katie Quirk blogs about family gap years abroad at warmerthancanada.com.

Comments are closed.

Mik

Please, Please, Please
Por Favor…leave your protest marches in the US.
Don’t come here with all your crap.
We have no army here, or have you forgotten that.
Go home gringo!

Pura Vida Forever

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chuber

Good reminder that global warming is a moral issue that affects people worldwide. I was reminded of the letter sent by “Nobel Peace prize winner, Albert Schweitzer” to Presidents Kennedy and Khrushchev urging the end to atmospheric nuclear testing as a moral issue affecting all worldwide. This lead to the “Nuclear Test Ban Treaty” signed by both.

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PeaceMaker

I’m happy to see people exercising your rights to gather together in a common cause. My wife and I are enjoying the wonderful climate and people of Costa Rica. In the United States we recognize that we are a nation of immigrants and are very proud of that fact. I hope we can come together to further our cause of equality and freedom. Immigration is not a simple matter and my wish is for us all to join together for immigration policies that work for us all. Happy Tuesday Costa Rica!!

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TattyWade

Thanks for your thoughts but pls. go to your country and be of help there. DO NOT, I repeat, do not come here to change our ways. Leave rather than destroy our country. Enough damage to our society has already been done by your people. All that liberal s^%$ needs to get out of our Pura Vida life. You are taking advantage of our rural areas, shame on you. Why don’t you help them to pave that road??? or street?

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TattyWade

With all due respect… If you people appreciate our country, pls. do not come to it and try to change it. Why are you forming protests in CR. We made this far without you.
I am a Costa Rican in the US. I respect your country and follow your laws but I did not came here to impose my way or to try to change your country. That is your duty.
Please US citizens, you do not have the right to keep destroying my country. Too much ugliness coming from gringos who have been destroying CR. If you do not like it the way it is… leave pls.
You are exploiting our child ten, see picture, YOU are involved in sex traffic of minors, drugs, prostitution, killings (Big Bill) That is enough. Appreciate the Costa Rican hospitality or leave.
You complain about Mexicans, Muslims and others who come here to the US and are changing your country…. Keep your hands of mine. Bring your “smart ideas” and help your country who desperately needs it. Why are you in CR. Did anybody called you for help?
Furthermore: dog that eats dogs is not a good dog. We do not need that kind of “dogs” in CR. – No offense.. just facts.

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Abili

Me parece que el perro que esta comiendo perro es usted. Yo tambien vivo en USA y la gente respeta mis ideas y nadie me anda mandando a volver a mi pais. Me parece que la marcha fue respetuosa y no tuvo intenciones de cambiar al Costa Rica en ningun sentido. No se sentiria bien usted si la comunidad tica en este pais fuera mas solidaria y unida con los problemas de Costa Rica? Pero no es asi, la gente ni sale a votar porque no les interesa. Ademas no se puede ser tan ignorante en esta vida y decir que todos los extranjeros ( estadounidenses)son iguales, muchos mas bien han ayudado mucho a nuestras comunidades. Por otro lado, la señora tiene derecho de expresarse y no hay nada que diga que eso sea en contra de la ley.

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