by Jim Damalas
You know I can’t recall ever having to explain that a staff member was rude or intimidated a customer at our Costa Rica luxury hotels. Granted we have perhaps been misinterpreted because of language or cultural barriers in our efforts to sometimes communicate, or challenged by a misplaced guest who should have checked into an all-inclusive hotel chain.
However there seems to be, in the DNA of Costa Ricans, a welcoming vibration that is inherent in most Tico encounters in my 4 decades of travel and now work in Costa Rica. I regularly get asked why our staff, our guides, and even the cab drivers or airport custom officers are so courteous and friendly. My own theory, which I share with many guests of Costa Rica luxury hotels; Greentique Hotels, has been constant over the years.
If you look at the history of Costa Rica, this tiny democratic nation is relatively young, like her counter part, the U.S. What makes this country so exceptional to me was due to its origins. The Gold Coast, that Christopher Columbus referred to when he named his new discovery, had no native empire to overrun or treasures to pilfer. Instead the treasure of biodiversity that Columbus discovered included a peaceful indigenous population that soon became victimized by the Conquistadors that followed.
Although the Spanish came to conquer the Americas, in the case of the local migratory population, they began to exploit the small native villages for slave labor on their newly created Haciendas. Those who resisted were mostly eliminated or were able to escape.
Since the Spaniards were not themselves farmers, as they expanded their Haciendas, they had no choice but to learn how to till the soil for themselves in order to make ends meet. Eventually the land, after a generation or two, tamed the Spanish to farm on their own the land they had originally claimed for the monarchy and finally declared their own independence.
Not until around 1850 did a new generation of farmers become somewhat successful with the production of coffee. Unlike their neighbor, Panama, Costa Rica depended on agriculture for commerce which in turn continued to assimilate the population into the culture and lifestyle of the countryside, a more tranquil and peaceful population that continues to reflect the “pura vida” mannerisms and hospitality that attracted many of us to become part of the hospitality industry that truly began in earnest back in the late 80’s/early 90’s.
So that’s my theory of why Costa Ricans are friendly by nature, and the Nature they tried to tame to survive converted them instead to the Tacos we know today. With each new generation removed, the conquerors became the “Campesinos” that drew me back over and over again, first as a tourist, and now as an Expat who has found his new home and profession with Costa Rica luxury hotels: Greentique Hotels.