By Pacho Gutierrez ‘77
Twenty-three years ago I led the first GS student trip to Costa Rica, a country that inspired me not only for its natural richness, but also for its dedication to conservation, sustainability, peace and social justice, among other things. This was my 12th time taking students to this magnificent country. As always, I left it refreshed and inspired.
Almost a quarter of a century will bring great change to any country, but it seems to be magnified in Costa Rica since it used to be so pristine. Its population has grown by 47 percent between 1994 and 2017. As Ticos gain in affluence, they buy more vehicles, build more roads, and construct more businesses. This become greatly apparent as one travels the roads, there is construction everywhere. The modern world is taking over, even a country where simplicity and unhurried lifestyle has been the way of life.
Costa Rica is doing its best to be a world leader in many fronts. For example, and as was mentioned in the blogs, it was the first nation to reach 100 percent renewable electricity production in 2015, making it a leader in energy sustainability. Almost one third of its territory is protected in some form or another from development or exploitation. Ninety seven percent of its population has access to electricity and potable water. Costa Rica has one of the highest literacy rates in Latin America. It enforces conservation laws better than most other Latin American countries. It provides health services better than most developing countries. It has low crime and poverty rates.
Progress continues to spread over the planet. Modern conveniences and amenities are encroaching the Costa Rican countryside. For example, it used to be there was little or no cell service in rural areas, now it seems like there is WiFi connectivity in every room in every lodge, no matter how remote (Tortuguero). Those eco-tourists demand their connectivity!
Ticos continue to soldier on with their respect for nature, for wildlife and for each other. Animals move about unafraid or unconcerned with humans. It’s like what happens with the GS squirrels, they are emboldened by the way they are left free to roam.
Ticos are humble people with a strong sense of family and solidarity with their neighbors, something that really struck a chord with our students. The respect and cohesiveness they show with one another is refreshing and awe inspiring. Sure, they have problems like everyone else, but they have a tranquility about them that is unique.
Ticos say Pura Vida! (literally: Pure Life) for everything: as a greeting, as a response, as an expression, as an invitation to be positive and jovial. Its contagious, one can’t help to be happy around Ticos. Pura Vida all around!
I hope they never lose their joy to live their meaningful lives!