In his article “From Costa Rica to Israel” published in in New Voices on Thursday January 23, 2014, Zach C. Cohen, writes that “San José is an ugly city. The streets are lined with storefronts due for a paint job. Trash and dog droppings line the sidewalks. Every afternoon, like clockwork, the tropical weather brings in a rainstorm that puts most Sunday showers stateside to shame. At night, drug dealers and (legal) prostitutes roam the streets.”
What San José has he been to? Yes, the city is ugly by many standards, no denying it, but dog droppings line he sidewalks and prostitutes roam the streets?
I have lived in Costa Rica for more almost two decades and the only dog poop I have ever seen is in the parks, as dog owners refuse to pick up after their pets. The trash in the streets? It’s getting better, there is a collective conscience to use the few garbage bins, now only if the city would collect the trash. The bulevar (pedestrian boulevards) of the downtown core are swept regularly by a team of city employees. However, if you wonder off into the “zona roja”, like the Coca Cola or market area, for example, it’s another thing.
As to prostitutes, prostitution in San José is kept within the confines of hotels, bars, casinos, etc. Female prostitutes do not have to “work the streets”, they can do so in the comfort of air conditioning and hotel security.
Zach, the only prostitutes you will find in San José are the transvestites, and they are generally located in specific areas, like Barrio Amón, by the INVU, where there are a number of hotels catering to a segmented clientele.
Worrying about your “magen david” (Star of David)? Costa Ricans love to wear the magen david, even though they have no clue what it stands for. I can remember my first impression in San José, thinking to myself “why so many Jews”, later to find out that the Star is a fine piece of jewellery for Ticos.
And Zach, the necklace snatchers aren’t picky, they will snatch a magen david, a cross, anything that looks gold around someone’s neck!
Security at synagogues around San José is tight, around the holidays especially. This, however, is true only at the “high profile” temples in La Sabana and Pavas. In my neighbourhood of Rohrmoser/Pavas, which includes one such high profile temple, there are a myriad of small conservative and orthodox temples where no security is seen or needed. The orthodox, including Hasidic in Jewish orthodox style of dress can be seen walking to and from temples, and have never seen or read a report of harassment or attack because of their choices.
“Swastikas in every bathroom stall in Costa Rica”. Are you sure you were in San José, Costa Rica? And what part? In all my years in the country I have seen my fair share of bathroom walls, including some scuzzy parts of town during my night club days, yet have never seen one swastika. Not one.
San José is mixed bag of religious faiths and cultures. You write, “…that stood in stark contrast to Israel, where being Jewish was pervasive…”. Now, if you came to see the overtaking by Jews of San José, I don’t get it. Costa Rica is not a Jewish state, so why would you see a ‘pervasive’ Jewish presence?
In closing, of all you the negative things you write, you never mention the giant menorah at the east entrance of the Sabana park. You can’t miss it!
Zach, I suggest you open your myopic vision.
San José is not “just a foul city filled with Catholics”, but home to a large number of Jews, Italians (ok, not a religion, but if you know an Italian, you know that religion and state are one), Catholics, Protestants, Christians, Jehovah’s, Evangelists (who continually keeping ringing my door bell every week)…just about every religion is covered. Even atheists!
We even almost had a Jewish president a few years back!
Here is a the link to Zach’s article. If you agree with him, all the above applies to you too. But, if you like the majority of us who live in San José don’t, use the comments section below to let Zach how closed minded he is.
Even better, write Zach.
Pura Vida in my adopted home of San José!