Protecting Paradise

In front of the window of  my bedroom, the land slopes steeply, then levels into a strangely open field before yielding to the bamboo and trees that line the creek. Gloriana tells me that there was once Del Monte pineapple planted in that field; the chemical cocktail used to “prepare ” the earth for receiving their patented hybrid fruit rendered the land toxic – not even grass will grow there now – for 20 years… There are still 16 years left to go…..

The mountains rise on the other side of the valley ; in the dark of last night they were a lightshow of looming human habitation where, when I first came here some 20 years ago, there used to be the sweet silent darkness of the rest of the Farm. This piece of the land belongs to other members of Gloriana’s family. Her farm has a history mirroring that of most families I have met in Costa Rica; it and the family are both struggling to maintain their nobility, as more money is to be made from “developing” the land – turning it into highrises and luxury condos like the ones across the valley – than farming it. The Family has given in bit by bit; educated mostly in the US, they are caught up in Costa Rica’s complicated cultural dependency on the States but also with the desire to make as much money as possible from the foreigners flocking in for a piece of this attractive pie.

“Zona Libres” – Free Zones – exist throughout the country, where foreign companies are allowed to run their factories, tax-free. A couple of years ago, under the governance of the then-Costa Rican President and  Nobel Prize-winner Oscar Arias, the US began building an arms factory in one of these zones. The Costa Rican people ( who refer to their President as “Oscar”) made enough of a fuss that plans were halted. Now though, small planes loaded with cocaine fly freely in and out of the country, and the laundering business is thriving. US marines, hovering off the coast of Costa Rica with fast boats, state-of-the-art intelligence-gathering equipment and lots and lots of guns, are being reluctantly welcomed by many Ticos as a necessary evil in the fight against the drug cartels. More suspicious minds than mine might wonder where the drugs are really coming from…..

Not to be outdone, China “gave” Costa Rica a ludicrously huge new National Stadium, built with Chinese labour in a field with no road access because the Costa Rican infrastructure is notoriously inept and corrupt, in exchange for official recognition. The Taiwanese government – and the Dalai Lama, supposedly a friend of “Oscar” – are no longer welcome in the county.

A toucan stares at me from the tree in front of the window. A red squirrel, canaries, hummingbirds, red doves, and dozens of multicoloured birds whose names I don’t know, flap and scamper by. Peacocks, guinea hens, geese, chickens and dogs of varying hue and cry are free and at home here. The morning sun, slipping out for a moment from the cover of winter clouds, turns last night’s rain into pure light, sheathing each blade of grass, each leaf and web.

My friend Gloriana, alone in her room above me, lights incense and prays for strength…prays for peace.

Pray with her, please.

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15 Responses to Protecting Paradise

  1. Monique says:

    I am joining the prayer.


  2. Brian Britten says:

    Yes,what you write we have all seen in the movies and just like in Leonard Cohen’s lyrics from “Everybody Knows”..”the good guys lost”.

    • dawnbramadat says:

      I don’t feel that this is about good guys vs bad guys….We create what we believe, and Costa Rica is dealing with a deep divide of duality in every aspect of its existence….This is an extension of what each one of us is living – the challenge to maintain a belief in Oneness in the face of temptation to abandon all hope. Stillness and prayer is both a source of solace and a tool of transformation….

      • Brian Britten says:

        If a ‘deep divide of duality’ is created there will be a polarization of what is perceived as ‘good vs bad’..we always hope that ‘the good wins’ just out of the sense of ‘fair play & common sense’..but as ‘everyone knows’ sometimes the ‘fight is fixed'(another line from this ‘bad things happen’..transformation is a balancing act and the ‘goodness’ will return to make a Oneness when it outweighs the opposing forces & then finally reaches equality of intention.

  3. loryn strong says:

    The streets in downtown victoria reflect abuse, struggle and the absense of equality. Many people walk with heads down yet because I am looking up and smile there are those who recieve and send back a welcomed ray of love, hope and for the moment I believe in what lies beyond.

  4. María Paula says:

    yes Dawn, I am not very hopeful about the reality of this country. We’ll keep fighting until the end, but under capitalist systems and consumerist mentality there is not much to do really. “Resources” are to be exploited, not protected, so they say. Nature is not us, it is a thing, a “landscape” that may well be dispensable.

    Anyway…I did my masters thesis on residential tourism supply side (that attracts Americans, Canadians and Europeans to come to retire in Costa Rica or to have a second home in Costa Rica) and how it destroyed a lot of the North Pacific coast, and it is very complicated. Costa Rica has a strong environmentalist legislation, but there is a lot of corruption and institutional weaknesses, as well as ignorance on scientific aspects (how to manage natural resources). The country is under a lot of pressure to open up to foreign investment and to produce no matter what.

    But don’t worry, as long as there are public spaces for civil participation, a lot of people here will fight.

    Thanks for informing the rest of the world. People have this image of Costa Rica of happy peasants and green mountains with untouched beaches (that’s the image that the Government produces) but it is not real. This has been paradise interrupted especially since the 1980s with the shift to the neoliberal economic model and the heavy promotion of Costa Rica as a touristic destination.

    This is a good clip by the Guardian on the situation of the pinneapple in Costa Rica:

  5. Pingback: Costa Rica, February, 2013 | Hither & Yon…

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