Costa Rica, just like other Latin American countries I have visited, is strongly rooted in Christianity. During my short visit in Costa Rica, I learned that for many individuals, God is an important figure in their lives. I can honestly say that every person I spoke to, expressed gratitude and/or hope in God. In this last year of graduate school, we discussed and read how religion, in particularly Christianity, has both a positive and negative role in people’s lives. In this case, I was able to witness the positive impact religion has on individuals in Costa Rica.
My interactions with both Costa Rican’s and Nicaraguan immigrants, allowed me to understand how the faith that stems from their religion, not only serves as a source of support, but rather, it forms part of their identity. For people, like the leaders of a non-profit organization in a predominantly Nicaraguan immigrant neighborhood, their success is not only attributed to their hard work, but to the Lord whom has blessed their efforts every step of the way.
For many Nicaraguan immigrants, life in Costa Rica has not been easy. They are dealing with the stigma of being violent, aggressive, and uneducated people. On the contrary, the majority of the Nicaraguan immigrants are hardworking people who seek to overcome the economic struggles they left behind in their homeland. During this trip, a Costa Rican man said to me, “Ticos* are the gringos* of Central America, and we want the immigrant Nicas* to take on the manual labor jobs.” While perhaps not all Costa Rican’s may share this view, it is clear that the Nicaraguan community in the country are found working in construction, coffee farms, as house maids, as security guards and so on.
Yet, not once, did I hear a Nicaraguan complain about their struggles; rather, they praised the Lord for the opportunities they were given and hoped in Him for a brighter future. I can say the same for the Costa Ricans whom expressed and openness and desire to help their neighbors (Nicaraguans). In their fight for social justice they found hope and courage in their Christian faith. Ultimately, I encountered a country full of people who radiated a pure joy that stemmed from their gratitude to the Lord.
*Ticos: Costa Ricans
*Gringos: US White Americans