I would like to know more about the expatriate population of Costa Rica, especially in the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. When we were on our boat trip to Tortuguera, I was struck by the uncanny familiarity of the residences along the river. Little cobbled-together cottages, using whatever materials were at hand, with rickety porches and old vehicle seats as porch furniture. Rural Costa Rica is the first place that I’ve ever seen people living almost exactly like many of the people I grew up around. The houses look like the hand-built residences in the Valley (a hippie community my family was part of), and the use and re-use of materials, along with the scarcity and intentionality of possessions reminds me so much of my childhood home.
And then we went to Tortuguera pueblo, where artisans make and sell handicrafts…the handicrafts I learned to make from my parents’ friends. Or watched them make, or knew they made and sold. Dangly earrings made of seed beads, sandals of twisted rope and leather, macramé necklaces with stones and beads worked in. It’s eerie to be walking down a street in Costa Rica in 2020 and feel like you’re walking into a parto f your childhood you thought was created in isolation. Watching a tan man in dirty, fraying pants carve turtles out of Almond shells, I realize that Pat Ryan, the best friend of my dad from High School, visited India and Costa Rica. When he appeared in my life when I was small, he told me the story of visiting India, but we ran out of time before he could tell me about Costa Rica. “Another time,” he said, but the other time didn’t ever happen. Still yet, he carried, wore and made articles of clothing and jewelry that I’m seeing here in Costa Rica, as did his wife. I remember Ché, the friend f somebody or another, who showed up in the Valley when I was little, wearing rope sandals and gauzy white pants, on his way to somewhere from somewhere in Central America. I know Guatemala was a big influence, because Elvia ran a store that sold Guatemalan products, but I don’t think I’d put two and two together about Costa Rica until I was here and there were so many things from my childhood.
It makes sense, really—what could be more appealing to the drop-out peace-nik population of the US than a country who had disbanded their military, declared themselves a peaceful nation, established free medical care for not only citizens but also visitors (in its inception. This is not true today.), free education and a “pura vida”—pure life of tropical fruit, simple food and slow living. Of course the people my parents knew would’ve visited here, soaked up the way of life here, and brought it back to influence me in my early, impressionable years. How funny to be “coming home” to Costa Rica. I never imagined.