We participate daily in the local gringo message board here Costa Rica Living, anyone is welcome to join if they have an interest in Costa Rica.

There is a caution I must add . . . as you read the posts, these are opinions and are frequently wrong for various reasons. For one, new arrivals to Costa Rica have different needs than the old hands. For another the social climate (as well as the weather) is TOTALLY different in the loosey goosey Zona Sur than in the much more populated and organized Central Valley of Costa Rica. What works for one rarely works the same for the other.

Here is a pretty good example of 2 perspectives about the exact same stretch of road. One visitor wanted to know about the road in and out of San Vito close to the Panama border. It just so happened I had been on that road the previous week . . . I replied:

"The road from the "highway" to San Vito is lovely although the designer appears to have used a corkscrew as her/his template . . . Going out the other side of San Vito is also a nice winding road through delightful countryside . . ."

Another member of Costa Rica Living then replied with:

"The hiway from Cd.Nielly is windy and uphill (and dangerous in a rainstorm if you think in those terms) and the one from the NW is full of potholes in addition to the beautiful views, just so you know. (Potholes at least before last Dec.)"

One member thinks the road is lovely and delightful and another thinks it is potholed and dangerous. Both views are of course true

Actually the road looks just like this:

Recently a thread broke out about Costa Rica's lack of interest in war (as demonstrated by the abolition of the military in 1948 due to bad behaviour). I wanted to share this thinking as the idea is what attracts many to Costa Rica in the first place.

A country at peace with the world.

The conversation started with this thought (obviously from someone who does not yet live here),

Q: "I am wrinkling my eyebrows now at the thought that CR has no army. Do you really feel safe there? I mean, there are idealogies that seek to dominate the world and it seems to me that CR has no way to defend herself. Don't you feel terribly vulnerable?

"I may have to watch out for the odd snake in the woods, but am happy for not having to subsidize a war machine. As it so happens we have already too many arms with police and guatchiman."

"Defend herself from whom? Nicaragua, Panama, ... ? Most countries with military establishments have been in more wars than CR has."

"I kinda like when this question surfaces. We don't have anything that anyone wants here. Neither Panama nor Nicaragua need more terrain or more campesinos! We nixed off shore drilling, so no one is going to invade us for our oil.

We have no enemies since we remain neutral in international affairs.

Our president Oscar Arias has made a massive effort over the years to encourage other countries to spend the money that a military requires on housing, education, medical care and other things instead of weapons and soldiers. If people are healthy, happy and reasonably well taken care of, they don't do revolutions either.

Our need for a military is basically nonexistent. Many of our neighbors in Central America use their armies to control the population. We don't need to do that either. I love that we don\t pay taxes for something we don't need."

"I have to admit to having a huge smile on my face when I read this question. Having no army was one of the major deciding factors in my moving here in the first place.

We have nothing which anyone else could want to take and we have education and health-care instead! What could be better?? I've never felt more safe anywhere."

"Sorry, but i have a different take on what could be taken from Costa Rica - and it is happening now - "economically taken" from a population made vulnerable by tv and advertising, mesmerized by an artificially-created need for owning "things" that are manufactured and imported from giant countries with giant armies - take a guess which - and sold at artificially "cheap" prices so these giant exporters can maintain their trade deficits."

"Partially so, because we start to realize that we can either suffer or master this situation. The solution towards a liveable future will come from constructive and peaceful agreements amongst ourselves. I don't have a cristal ball, but do believe in our common sense (which needs time, like everything else)."

"My view of this is not that CR is a peace loving nation but one taking advantage of circumstances, many countries are willing to come to the defense of CR should it be required, Israel, USA to mention a few, who needs an army and BTW, what would call all these uniformed "police" running around in military uniforms, you tell me, police, military, army????? Been to CR many times over the past 15 years and decided there are other places that may be better. Just check out the former leaders of the country, where are they? The corruption rivals the USA. "

"Israel? What makes you think they would help Costa Rica? Not saying you are incorrect but I have never heard anyone mention any country other than the USA who would come to the aid of Costa Rica should they be invaded by a foreign power. I believe China might but Israel? Can you tell me why you think Israel would?"

"God forbid that the Israeli Army ever shows up here... I was in Israel in October. There was a scuffle in Jerusalem so the army flew maneuvers all around it's borders. Showing the neighbors that they were serious, I suppose. But they also flew maneuvers over all the 5 star hotels at the Dead Sea. All day. Flying lower than anything I ever seen outside of an airplane Show. It was unnerving. It was loud. It was unneccessary.

I seriously doubt than anyone will ever need to defend us as there is no one to defend us from unless we change the policy on offshore drilling. In whch case it is more likely that the US would protect it's interests here. Because it has been US companies that have shown an interest in our oil and no one else to my knowledge.

They might actually have to if the problem were a takeover for oil. But since we don't drill for oil here the likelihood is about zero, maybe less. Actually studies have been done that show that most armies are used in part or wholly to keep the citizens under control. Only a few large developed countries send their soldiers to wars outside of their borders. Far fewer than you might think."

"I can think of one reason CR may need defense in the future (if they can get serious about protecting its most valuable resources). With the way the rest of the world is going, clean water and oxygen may become the most desirable things around. Anyone for a fly fishing trip in the Aral Sea?"

"Let me see if I have this correct, some country, such as china were to take over Costa Rica they would respect the no exploration for oil in the coastal waters of CR???? I think not, they would begin exploration before you cloud say jack rabbit, they are oil hungry, perhaps that may be part of the reason they are courting CR now, hummmmn. Fly fishing in the Aral Sea would be very successful, you would be abuzz with success."

"Nope, I think IF some country took over there would be no respect for anything (and especially if you already built the refinery). But I just do not think the IF is likely. Logistically it would be just too difficult for a distant nation to accomplish it through invasion, would have to be done from within. So IF the government wants to give the country away, I am not sure that is the same as being taken over? You get my drift.Either way, the kind of "taking over" that could befall CR would not be defensible by an army. It would likely require a civil militia, or an outraged population at the voting booth. Or maybe just families preserving a culture. Just my humble and maybe wishful opinion."

"Um for the life of me I can't see why any country, least of all China, would take over CR in 2010? In a world of city states (lets say circa 1456 a.d.) there was a great need to accumulate more cities and territories in part because a city state was non viable and needed some economies of scale, room to graze more cows, a cute queen to attract and perhaps additional slaves or something else they coveted. Nobody takes over other countries any more (well ALMOST nobody). Its truly passe, makes a mess of the local landmarks and pisses off the neighbors. Figueres was a very bright guy and got that all figured out in 1948.

IMHO of course. p.s. if my reading of the history is accurate, the total layoffs as a result of disbanding the army and turning the barracks into a cultural icon (I love that guys style!) . . . was about 450 guys out of work. It wasn't that big a job, but a distinct message to the future. Correct me if I'm wrong on the numbers?"

PHOTO CREDITS:

All - PuraVidaHotel.com

  1. Giant Cane Toad (AKA Bufo Marinus): more dangerous than the former Costa Rican military, this one found in the Pura Vida garden, about the size of a bread plate
  2. Cute little 2 toed sloths, native to the southern Caribbean zone of Costa Rica . . . the mother may have been electrocuted as sloths sometimes can't tell a high tension cable from something pleasant to climb on
  3. A map of the rea around San Vito, just north of the Panama border, check out the corkscrew road design. This is also the road to the most excellent Wilson Botanical Gardens. The Wilsons are buried there too.
  4. Downtown Alajuela, our home town . . . though this is the second largest town in Costa Rica many of the locals do not use much from the so called developed world . . . supermarkets being one. Many shop at the "underground" mercado central and the weekly Plaza Ferias (farmers market).
  5. This is Lola the pig and unofficial mascot of the delightful Playa Avellanas - she is one contented and enormous pig (and lives at one of our favorite beaches
  6. The afternoon clouds mass in Alajuela near the Pura Vida Hotel
  7. The Rhino beetle and its kin.
  8. All of Costa Rica might, by some be considered a political backwater despite healthcare for all, no army and one of the hot spots on the planet for longevity.
  9. Yes the U.S. built some bridges here as part of an effort to make sure the Panama Canal would be accessible by road in the event of who knows what . . .
  10. The last real invasion attempt into Costa Rica was oddly enough managed by an American, William Walker in 1856
  11. A delightful caterpillar.
  12. A plaque commemorating the Costa Rican uprising that responded to the invasion with a campesino army of 5,000 . . . more people died in this war from yellow fever than from bullets.
  13. Lichen growing happily on a log, just the way things should be in the neo-tropics.