RICO’s DIGEST – This year, 2021, I became a “Ciudadano de Oro”, a status that in Costa Rica is regarded with respect, and a term that I prefer over “Adulto Mayor”.
In Costa Rica, this status is bestowed on a citizen when he or she reaches 65 years of age, when preferential attention in public institutions and many, but not all, commercial establishments.
The initiative began in the late 1990s when Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS), which gave the right to those who already have gray hair (though not a prerequisite) to participate in a job exchange, participate in recreation and health activities, and obtain discounts or free tickets to public shows.
In the past, I can remember several of my friends having a gold plastic card, a credential, though a purely formal matter, that the holders, the beneficiaries, would only have to present to take advantage of the benefits.
Today, the cedula, Costa Rica’s national ID, is pretty much it. I haven’t seen or know of anyone who actually has a gold card or they have, use it.
One of the benefits of being a “Ciudadano de Oro” in Costa Rica is that you get to ride the bus (and the Puntarenas ferry I learned not too long ago) for free. I am sure you have seen it, a passengers boarding a bus presenting only their cedula, to which the bus driver takes note of the ID, either writing out the number on a form or holding it up to the camera for the main office to take note.
That is the back story.
Given my recent joining of this club and the pandemic, I really haven’t been able to experience the “Ciudadano de Oro” like riding the bus or train. Nor the long lines at the banks and government offices, given that most of the transactions are now done online.
As a tradition, I do not pay my bills when they hit my email box, I wait to the very last day of the “due date”. Anyone who has lived in Costa Rica for any period of time know well, never, ever, pay in advance or before the due date. At least that has been my experience and my recommendation to newbies to the country.
As I did last year and the year before that, I missed the cut off date to pay the annual Marchamo online. This year, at the BAC, it was on Monday. I tried to pay it on Tuesday. Oh well, as in previous years, I picked the right time and location to pay the Marchamo, that is be prepared for the long lines.
I chose BAC Multiplaza. As I passed several other locations where Marchamos can be paid, I see people, under the hot sun, doing the line thing. My choice of Multiplaza was, one, I can make line under roof and two, there are multiple outlets to pay the Marchamo, choosing the one with the shortest (I hoped) line.
My first stop was the BAC. I bank at the BAC where I can pay with my debit card or bank balance, eliminating the need to make another line to use the ATM to get cash to pay the Marchamo at other outlets.
The line was long. It curved around the corner, up the stairs, down the stairs, over to the aisle and then lost track, for I decided to go up to the nice young people at customer service to ask where the line began.
To my surprise, the young man, gave me a ticket, ticket number Z016 to the “pago de marchamos” line, and told to step inside the branch. OK, but? I decided it wasn’t my place ot ask.
After pulling of my mask for a second to satisfy the security guard’s request for the mug shot, I looked at the screen and the customer with ticket number “Z013” was being attended to.
This is where it dawned on me, I am here because of my age. My white hair didn’t hurt. I was out of there, with my two Marchamos in hand, in less than 20 minutes.
Being a “Ciudadano de Oro” in Costa Rica rocks.
Edit: In the earlier version “Cuidadano” was misspelled.