Friday 24 September 2021

A Delicate Reality

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Design, Víctor Valverde/La Nacion
Four prominent Costa Rican sports figures experienced discrimination firsthand. Design, Víctor Valverde/La Nacion

The problem of racial discrimination is still a reality, despite living in the 21st century.

In Toronto (Canada), a human rights tribunal ordered a popular sports bar to pay Canadian $10,000 each to three Indo-Canadians for racially discriminating against them. Oprah Winfrey, one of the most famous women in the world media, says she WAS victim of racism at Swiss store and told how she experienced what ‘people of black or brown color experience daily’, in an interview with a Swiss newspaper.

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Winfrey was in Switzerland to attend Tina Turner’s wedding when she entered Zurich’s Trois Pommes boutique in search of a handbag to match her outfit for the lavish event. The media mogul claims the sales assistant refused to show her a black crocodile leather bag because of the color of her skin, assuming that she clearly could not afford the expensive product because she was black.

In Costa Rica, racial discrimination is illegal. In this multi-ethnic democratic society you’ll find an endless variety of religion, minorities and skin-colours peacefully living and working next to each other. At least that is we would like to believe.

The reality is that racism of various forms is found in every country on Earth. In different countries, the forms that racism takes may be different for historic, cultural, religious, economic or demographic reasons.

La Nacion recently published examples the how four “national” figures have experienced racism firsthand: sports commentator Mario McGregor, journalist and singer Sasha Campbell, boxer Hanna Gabriel and goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton.

Stories of racism in the country are plentiful, from public reports by local personalities like singer German Davis, who says that he sees it firsthand every time he publishes on YouTube. “They make a face when I speak my dialect, patuá“, says the singer.

The former presenter of Destinos TV, Randy Allen, who currently works at a state bank and is a presenter at corporate events, told La Nacion, how he was denied entry at some bars/clubs in San José.

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As a group, the largest of foreigners in the country, Nicaraguans, aside from social marginalization, whether legally or illegaly resident, face discrimination in employment and housing and are sometimes denied their legally established rights to health care and other services.

Nicaraguans continually relate stories of how, at one time or the other, have been discriminated against relegated to menial jobs (cleaning homes for women and dirty construction work for the men) and are passed over for promotion just for being a foreigner.

Numerous sources refer to the situation of Nicaraguan immigrants, both legal and illegal, as a recurring issue of controversy.

One of the most recent reports available refers to the results of a 2000 census, the first one carried out in Costa Rica since 1984 (Latin American Regional Reports 20 Feb. 2001). The report states that an amnesty for illegal Nicaraguan immigrants in late- 1998 and 1999 “encouraged about 150,000 Nicaraguans to legalize their situation, but many more did not come forward”. The report adds that:

The best estimates are that up to 500,000 Nicaraguans are living and working in Costa Rica. The presence of such a large number of newcomers has been a severe strain on services such as health, education and housing, and has caused considerable resentment among the native population, who tend to blame the Nicaraguans for everything from long waits at hospital casualty departments to rising violent crime figures. Anti-Nicaraguan jokes are becoming commonplace.

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For many Costa Ricans, Nicaraguans are seen as a “reserve army of workers”.

But Nicaraguans aren’t the only group discriminated against. Chinese, Europeans, Colombians, Cubans, Mexicans…and even North Americans, face some form of social discrimination, though not always evident.

Costa Rica prides itself on being a country where human rights are respected and has a liberal tradition of eager adoption of reforms. So far, however, little attention has been paid to the problem of ethnic and racial discrimination within its borders.

As they say, it even happens in the best of families. And even in a country that is often referred to as the Switzerland of the Americas!

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"Rico" is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! In these times of new normal, stay at home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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