This was the title of an article that appeared recently in Costa Rica’s daily newspaper, La Teja. The article was critical of the fact that the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (I.C.T.) made a sixty-second video to promote tourism by showing the country’s beauty and natural wonders. The ad will be shown at nearly 1500 movie theaters in the U.S. and Canada. In the video there are no black, Chinese or indigenous Costa Ricans, only white ticos are shown. The country’s black community is indignant about this.
In reality about 8% of the country’s population is of Black African descent or Mulatto (mix of European and black) who are called Afro-Costa Ricans. They are English-speaking descendants of 19th century black Jamaican immigrant workers. Most Afro-Costa Ricans are found in the Limón Province and the Central Valley.The country’s indigenous population numbers around 2.5%. In Guanacaste Province, a significant portion of the population descends from a mix of local Amerindians, Africans and Spaniards.
For many people of the country’s blacks their exclusion from the video is an example of the neglect they have historically suffered and the neglect of Limón province where most reside. One prominent black Costa Rica, Emus Davis from Limón, stated, “The Tourism Institute says that is trying to promote the country abroad but has excluded us from the process.”
Costa Rica’s blacks are used to being viewed as second-class citizens. It wan’t’ until 1949 that they were granted citizenship and full guarantees like owning land under the constitution. Prior to that date blacks were virtually confined to the province of Limón and forbidden to work in other areas of the country.
The exclusion of blacks from the video does not surprise me at all because people of color are not only discriminated on in Costa Rica but in most parts of Latin America as well. All that you need to do is watch TV here and you will notice that the majority of the people in commercials are “white” Costa Ricans. The same is true of ads in newspapers and magazines. Furthermore, almost all of the Telenovelas or Spanish Soap Operas produced in Latin America feature white and mestizo Latinos. Very with few indigenous people let alone blacks appear. When they do, they are usually type-cast in roles as servants.
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Parts of this article was originally published in Christopher Howard’s blog at www.liveincostarica.com/blog