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A Costa Rican Man or My Constitution?

I’m a 35 year old woman that lives in a country that still doesn’t have a laic government, where most people marry before 30, where a woman who lives by herself is thought to either have a secret affair with a married man, is a lesbian or a whore. Yes, like if these adjectives are diseases and synonyms.

A Man or My ConstituionEven though Costa Rican culture is changing in many ways, the following is a recollection of a conversation with my very Costa Rican aunt. It might serve you as a small window into the middle class home of many of us. But most importantly, it will give you an idea of how women in this country are attached to a series of expectations and rules that come from very religious and patriarchal “invisible” rules.

So there I was at my aunt’s house having some of her great food while telling her about this very educated, polite, sensitive and Costa Rican gentleman I had a crush on. Don’t laugh – he is a gentleman! He comes from a very nice family of genuinely charismatic and intellectual beings, good mannered and art lovers. Then, I told her as a funny side story, that even though he doesn’t mind swear words, he himself doesn’t use them. It’s just not in his nature.

All of a sudden, her face transformed and she turned to look at me with a worried expression. Now that I look at it, I think she had been waiting for years to have this opportunity to say the following to me.

(Don’t forget I’m 35 and unmarried. My aunt is a very young 78 year old woman, but conservative and Catholic to the bone. She still asks me to comb my hair and abstain from walking in my pajamas from my house to her house. It’s all useless, but she still tries! BUT, going back to the point -me being unmarried and old-  this man, to her, might have seemed like my last hope for salvation. She was thinking about my future, respectability and worth as a decent woman, even though I was just thinking about a kiss. Ok, ok, and maybe some sex as well…)

“Mariana, you have to think about changing your ways, then. You can’t swear like you do if you ever meet this family. This man will not like you in a permanent manner if he hears you talk with your vulgar words and your strong opinions all the time.”

Please note that this man actually rejoiced every time I swore out loud.

“You seem to go through life as if you don’t care about anyone or any of the rules. That’s not good.A Man or My Constitution You have to grow up and stop being selfish. Life is not only about concerts.” 

Mind you, her brother was a singer; her nephews are respected musicians in CR, but their choice seems acceptable since they have masculine sexual organs and I don’t.

“Women have to be careful of how they portray themselves. Even in our neighborhood, (we live one block from each other) people ask me why you’re not married or why you live by yourself. I understand that you haven’t met a partner, but maybe it’s because you need to look inside and make changes. Now that you’re so beautiful, work on your personality.” 

Parenthesis: I thought she thought I was beautiful before when I used to be overweight. Oh, naïve me!

“Look at you, just the fact of how you talk to me like if I was your age is one example: how will you ever meet this guy’s mom with that attitude? You need to respect your elders. You need to settle down.”

This is my aunty who I dearly love. She’s one of the most amazing beings in my life and I even dedicated my book to her. So, even though I was on fire during this conversation, please know dear reader, that all of her words come from the deepest concern and love you can imagine. Please love her and disregard her old fashioned opinions. For my sake.


I will never be subtle. – Silent. – I can’t pretend to not like you if I like you, just to catch you in my fishing net. – I either paint my nails red or don’t paint them at all. – I don’t believe in religion. – I can have pork skins for breakfast. – I don’t brush my teeth as much as I would wish to. – I laugh really loud. – I don’t pretend to be dumb. – I don’t respect elders, just because they’re elders or a boss just because she’s a boss. – I get passionate about government policies that affect the least fortunate. They affect me: my heart races, I get heartburn and look at you with disgust if you don’t agree or don’t care. All this is true about me. –  I love to drink whiskey. – I smoke when I drink. – I hate routines. – I hate cleaning my house, so I pay someone to do it for me. –  I love sparkling eyes, irreverent spirits and those who are brave enough to choose their own path. Not the stipulated one, their own.

I’m not writing my constitution.

This is just the bottom line of my conversation with Tia.

No matter how much I try to change some of these defects – I just can’t.

And in many cases, I JUST WON’T.

Mariana den Hollander is a native Costa Rican artist and published writer. She majored in Fine Arts in The Hague and has resided in the US, Nicaragua, Honduras and Canada. She currently lives in San Jose and recently changed her life to be able to dedicate to painting, writing, promoting musicians and producing music events. Art page: E-mail:info [at]

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