Friday before Semana Santa, in the hours before the strict measures to minimize the spread of the new coronavirus during the holiday period, thousands crowded the country’s supermarkets, Walmart and Pricesmart, for example, buying rice, beans, canned ‘tuna’ and huge amounts of toilet paper.

Eduardo Rojas is a ‘prepper’ with extensive knowledge in mountaineering. From his business La Casa del montañista, in Guadalupe, he talks about the current pandemic and how he prepares in the event that things get out of control. Photo: John Durán / LN

Meanwhile at home, watching the news and witnessing such unprecedented crowds were the Tico preppers, who without saying a word and with a beer in hand settled very quietly on their living room sofar, watching the news.

When the first case of the covid-19 appeared in Costa Rica and the population was asked to stay home, the preppers did not need to go out. They had zero fear, since everything they needed to subsist for a long time had already been in their homes for months, or perhaps years.

“We have everything. The crowds we saw, when this coronavirus thing started, are part of the first wave of a possible system crash. People feel fear and, since they are not prepared, they leave their house desperately looking to get supplies, because in these countries there is no culture to store, everything is bought daily,” Eduardo Rojas, who proudly proclaims himself a prepper, told La Nacion.

The preppers, for those who do not know the term, are those people who take maximum precautions to survive in situations of extreme emergency or even the “inevitable end of the world”.

Along these lines, the collapse of society due to an economic crisis, a war world or a deadly pandemic, are part of the events for which they prepare with strict discipline.

That is why, in the midst of the world emergency due to the new coronavirus, the Costa Rican preppers, in Spanish “sacan pecho” – adopting an attitude of pride or defiance, as well acting decisively and courageously in a difficult situation.

Ricardo Calvo and Andres Acuña are ‘preppers’. On a farm, located in the Cerro de la Muerte, these men bet on a sustainable refuge to survive an economic and social disaster. Weapons, to defend against looting and other unforeseen events, are part of their arsenal. Photo: Pablo Montiel / LN

Unknown to them, family and even friends have called them insane, but now they have noticed how the perception towards their unique practices has changed. A lot.

“These days they don’t call us crazy anymore,” says Ricardo Calvo, a long-standing national prepper, who has his survival refuge in a wooded site in the Cerro de la Muerte.

Rojas, for his part, has never been bothered for being considered the “crazy sheep” of the family. After all, he knows that whenever his loved ones need something, they turn to him and that, in the midst of the current pandemic, they have begun to see him with different eyes.

“It is wavering, in the middle of any emergency, they always resort to me. It has always been like this. That in the middle of a family piñata a boy gets a scrape playing with others, they always come to me because they know that I always have band-aids, special knives or items to control any unexpected situation. Then we stop being the strange ones”, comments this Josefino smiling, very proud of his extensive knowledge in survivalism and his great expertise as a paramedic and mountaineer.

The only bad thing is that his relatives may love him very much and show him more appreciation than normal in these troubled times, but Rojas is forceful in one thing: “if there were to be a global collapse, very few could go with me. Siblings and even parents, who do not adopt the system, can unfortunately be left out. This may sound selfish, but it is not, it is realistic, because a large number of people would be impossible to handle.”

Alexánder Sánchez, in preparing his report, said that after listening to this sincere confession, inevitable questions arise: in the time of the covid-19, will it be necessary at any time to take such radical actions? How do preppers analyze the current pandemic? Will we be at risk of collapse worldwide? What do preppers really fear?

Their responses will surprise you.

How ‘preppers’ see it

Ricardo Calvo, a 48-year-old naturalist guide, is undoubtedly one of the best-known preppers in the country. His farm, located near kilometer 70 of theInter-American Sur (ruta 2), is his refuge in the event that an apocalyptic event threatens his life and that of his loved ones.

The sign says it all: “preppers shop” or “preppers” store. Eduardo Rojas, as he knows them very well, specializes in such unique clients. Photo: John Durán / LN

On his property Calvo stores water, all kinds of grains, generates energy autonomously and designed evacuation routes for when the spark ignites and the chaos begins.

Calvo, as he commented to La Nacion’s Revista Dominical last November, is aware that his lifestyle generates different opinions in people: “Many think that I am a truly fatalistic individual and that all my logistics are focused on preparing me for the ‘call of the end of the world'”.

However, Calvo does not consider himself a fatalistic person, “but realistic and cautious.”

“As for the fact that we are preparing for the end of the world, that is not true. We do it for a collapse or chaos that may occur at the least expected moment, and that could put our lives at risk,” said the survivalist.

Calvo has lived relatively calmly, however, these days, he and his survivalist community are more restless than ever. The covid-19 pandemic has put them on their guard, as everything seems to indicate that this is not a minor episode.

“I’m going to tell you one thing. Not that I think that the coronavirus is going to be the end of the world, no, I don’t think so. I think things are going well in Costa Rica. But something is true, this is like a tug of war for society, something that will make us all react and prepare better. Now everyone is going to understand us, without a doubt it will be like this,” said Calvo.

But while Calvo’s predictions sound relatively favorable, this prepper doesn’t rule out the possibility that something could go wrong and things with the covid-19 get completely out of control.

“Sure, the possibility of everything going wrong exists. Let’s remember that this is unprecedented in our history and the same Health Minister, Daniel Salas, cannot answer how long he will have to maintain the protocols to avoid contagion since everything must be measured day by day. Until now everything is unknown and that keeps you in suspense,” he reflected.

In summary, what Calvo fears the most are two things: firstly, that there will be a massive contagion of police officers and, secondly, the impact that the economic crisis will inevitably have on people, which inevitably brings with it the pandemic.

Calvo’s fear of the loss of the police to keep order is based on his observations that “many people cannot even obey a simple sanitary order”, not heeding to the call to stay at home, th hundreds daily violating the vehicular restrictions. “We already know that the economy of Costa Rica is going to be torn to shreds, that is a fact, so nothing is going to be the same as before,” he warns.

For him, looting, despair, and anarchy would be the consequences of a dangerous combo: a crisis of citizen security and hunger.

“I’m going to confess something to you. Me and the preppers in my community we were not prepared for a health emergency, because we did not have gallons of gel stored, or masks, or anything like that. We should have done it, I did not prepare for a pandemic of this type, but what we did prepare for was the lockdown,” said Calvo.

Costa Rica Preppers, is one of the Costa Rican survivalist groups on Facebook. In some of these communities, administration approval is required to enter and they have internal operating rules. Image from Facebook

“One cannot predict everything that is going to happen, it is impossible, one must be prepared for a sudden change in society. For example, the ‘last minute preppers’ were the ones that caused supermarkets to collapse and spread the virus further in Costa Rica and around the world.

“It is noted that human reaction is dangerous. In such a case, one should focus and be prepared in case a wave of looting comes into being,” he added.

For that, Calvo and his community of preppers already have some security protocols planned in their survival hideout. And yes, this includes weapons.

For preppers like Eduardo Rojas, owner of a mountaineering business located in Guadalupe, he points out what can happen before a global collapse breaks out.

He calls it “waves” that society goes through before possible chaos.

“I said it before. The first wave has to do with what we have already seen in Costa Rica. Feelings of hysteria about what is going to happen, the expectation of whether I am going to get sick or not, and the necessary practice of washing my hands every now and then. Confining yourself in one place,” Rojas explained.

The second wave, according to Rojas, “is the gradual collapse of the economic system, where people begin to see their purchasing power diminished, either because they lost their jobs, their jobs were suspended or their working hours were reduced. We are already seeing that”.

Finally, the third wave is the one that nobody wants to see, “It is the complete collapse of the economy and the political system, a fact for which virtually no one would be prepared. At this stage, according to Rojas, people do not have access to basic food and hunger begins to rise dangerously,” according to Rojas.

Rojas and other preppers already have plan A, B, and C.

First, he would take refuge in his house, then in another strategic position already identified and, finally, if necessary, in a secret place outside the Metropolitan Area. The evacuation routes are already planned out and could be activated the day this prepper considers that the security of his family nucleus is being violated.

For Rojas there are already signs to be concerned about, especially due to economic and social behavior. “You can already see that there are more aggressive and intolerant people than usual and that is evident with the Nicaraguan issue,” said the prepper.

”When people are stressed and confined, receiving worrisome information and without work all day, it becomes a time bomb, about to explode. The social order is simply broken. For me, the possibility of that happening is high, because when they tell you that the covid-19 vaccine will be ready in 18 months or 12 months, imagine,” he added, pessimistically.

Rojas says he is on yellow alert.

Preppers in Costa Rica use social networks, the different groups keeping in touch and informed.

All the news shared in the Facebook groups are commented with singular fury by the preppers, who in these days are in solidarity and uniquely united.

For many, the moment to act seems to be close, very close.

Another thing that Tico preppers do is stay on top of what other preppers around the world are doing.

Like the extreme measures taken by the Gembala family, to avoid the global pandemic, left Indiana moving into converted former military shelters in South Dakota, saying: “We’ve got life insurance and car insurance… now we’ve got TOTAL insurance.”

Sources: La Nacion, Revista Dominical, RT, Facebook