He brought in a bag the avocados that his aunts gave him, and a pair of sandals that he bought on the other side, for the “carajilla” (young girl). He walked with his rubber boots, like any other day, through the paddocks and grasslands that separate the department of Rivas in Nicaragua and the province of Guanacaste in Costa Rica.
He is Nicaraguan, but he has spent nine of his 34 years living undocumented in Santa Cecilia de La Cruz, Guanacaste, Costa Rica.
Here the border is an imaginary line that many like him know by heart because they live between one nation and another, visiting relatives on the other side, shopping at the grocery store in the neighboring country, crossing on foot, by bicycle, a motorcycle, a horse. Anyone of us would be lost, but he would never be. He came, perhaps, thinking about the rice he had to go sun to plant tomorrow.
And then he saw them.
“When I saw them I said ‘ayyyy’. And I wanted to go to them, but then I couldn’t anymore”.
If we look at the map from right to left, the natural border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua is broken when the San Juan River flees north, in the Tiricias sector, in Pocosol de San Carlos and at the height of the Bartola Refuge, on the Nicaraguan side.
What follows is an invisible line on which pastures, mountains, wetlands, mountains, houses, fall. Above all that: people, communities. Entire communities used to receiving health services on the Costa Rican side and buying cheap beer or leather sandals from the Nicaraguan side.
For decades, the inhabitants of both countries have drawn that imaginary line at the tip of political scandals and conflicts that characterize media coverage: from the conflictive navigation of the San Juan river to the “trocha” (trail) of the Government of Laura Chinchilla and the invasion of Isla Calero by of Nicaragua in 2010.
But the COVID-19 pandemic – and the abysmal difference in health management in both countries – is perhaps the sharpest knife with which has ever cut these communities.
Confidencial, La Voz de Guanacaste, Interferencia de Radios UCR joined this binational research to understand how this new normality is for families living further north in La Cruz, Upala and Los Chiles. This new frontier.
Click on the above links for the complete reports (in Spanish).