(To read El Gringo Feo’s Costa Rica Diary from the beginning, start here.)
Saturday, September 15
Ticos are celebrating independence day today. It’s a remarkable story, one of the few instances where a revolution actually resulted in a stable, functioning democracy. As I listen to the Revolutions podcast about the tumult and unfulfilled promise of Mexico’s myriad revolutions, the Costa Rican story becomes even more remarkable.
While today marks 197 years since Costa Rica and the other countries of Central America won their independence from Spain, the key event, in my mind, occurred in 1948 when José Figueres Ferrer took up arms after a disputed presidential election. He prevailed, but instead of going the route that victors in these instances often take, he disbanded the military and granted universal suffrage. The country remains a democracy to this day, and instead of a standing army, money is spent on education and social welfare.
Sadly, we’re in the midst of a national strike here over President Carlos Alvarado’s proposed fiscal reforms. National unions have taken to the streets, and there have been reports of bad behavior on both sides of the picket lines. Here in Uvita, I’ve not seen much sign of this. Most of the action has been centered in the capital, San José. And it could be argued this is the sign of a healthy democracy. The bad behavior thus far has been the exception rather than the rule.
Here’s hoping Ticos find a way around their current plight. There definitely are problems here. But there’s also massive potential. From my brief experiences, this is an experiment in democracy that is invigorating and worth defending.
(As an aside, I was reading up on Costa Rican history this morning and came across something my Gringo friends should take note of when people from the Americas express skepticism about our intentions. William Walker, a Tennessean who had dreams of creating a series of slave states in Latin America, managed to get control of Nicaragua in 1856 and marched on Costa Rica. The Ticos defeated Walker’s advance army at Santa Rosa and chased them back into Nicaragua, where Walker was ultimately forced to turn himself over to the U.S. Navy, which took him to New York City, where he was “greeted as a hero,” a welcome that he quickly wore out by blaming the Navy for his loss in Nicaragua. Of course, he wasn’t done there and returned to cause problems in the Americans, where he thankfully was executed in Honduras in 1860.)
Yesterday, I called a cab and went to the grocery store, where I stocked up on ibuprofen and enough food to last me a while. The driver, Michael, was awesome. I’m glad to know I now have a reliable ride I can call on. I also have a full fridge, so I don’t need to worry about conserving my last two cans of tuna, har. The foot is doing slightly better. I’ve been icing it throughout the day and I walked a good bit yesterday in the course of buying groceries without any noticeable ill effect. The key, I think, is to avoid any sort of twisting or sudden turning motion. That’s where sharp pain stabs me, reminding me to take it easy. At this point, I’d say I’m cautiously optimistic that if I don’t do anything stupid (big “if”), I can get this thing healed.