Rico’s TICO BULL – One of the questions I am often asked is what changes I have seen in my more than two decades of living in Costa Rica. There are many. Traffic congestion in the greater metropolitan area and the “Americanization” of the country are top two, without question.

PriceSmart shopping card. Photo Flickr

I have talked about this in past posts, ie And so the Americanization of Costa Rica continues.

“Americanized” might be somewhat true for all Central American countries, but I believe it is more mainstream right here, in Ticolandia. Even more than Panama.

I base my point of view on the “PriceSmart” index. This is the number of PriceSmart stores in a country based on its population.

Costa Rica is a country about the size of Switzerland or for “Americans”, two West Virginias, with just a little over five million inhabitants.

Yet, there are seven, yes, seven PriceSmart stores in the country: Zapote, Escazu, Heredia, Llorente (Tibas), Alajuela, Tres Ríos, and Santa Ana. All seven stores are located in the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM) which is about half of the country’s population.

You see, there are no PriceSmart stores outside the GAM. There are McDonald’s in various communities outside the GAM, even a Walmart in Liberia, but no PriceSmart stores. Not yet anyway.

Thus, in Costa Rica there are seven PriceSmart stores for a population of 2.5 million, give or take a few. This means, using simple math, that each store caters to 357,000 people, give or take a few.

If we compare that to say, Nicaragua or Colombia, I think you will see my point.

In Nicaragua, PriceSmart operates two stores in Managua. The Managua GAM has a population of 1.4 million, give or take a few. That means that each store caters to 750,000 people, give or take a few.

In Colombia, the bastion of the PriceSmart world with an overall population of almost 50,000 million there are the same number of PriceSmart stores as in Costa Rica.

The PriceSmart stores in Colombia are in one each in Barranquilla, Periera, Medellin and two each in Bogota and Cali with a combined population of some 20,000 people, give or take a few. That translates to one store per 2.8 million people, give or take a few.

Yes, Costa Rica is still Costa Rica. But “Americanized”. Especially the Central Valley and Jacó. However, it is still very Latin and the people are wonderful. Give or take a few.

BTW, there are no PriceSmart stores in Switzerland or West Virginia

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