Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Another Final Solution--Now in Costa Rica

The Earth is a paradise. Its varying climates, vast oceans and smaller seas and the beautiful plant life are awe inspiring. More awe to touch your soul are creatures that live in the water, in the soil, on the ground, the trees, and perch on mountain cliffs. Within this paradise humans live. Human intentions have us blind to the paradise in which we exist.

Business matters brought me to Costa Rica during its rainy season, the end of September. I went from San Jose's downpours to sunny and humid Limon. The bus ride between these two towns filled my eyes with green, mountainous vistas. Brooks and streams ran down the mountainsides which, during the rainy season, may bring mudslides that close the road.

Once through the tunnel, the rain slowed, the clouds parted and the sun dazzled. Several miles before the bus turned into Limon, a vast banana plantation and later cargo containers stacked on top of each other took up much of the scenery. Costa Rica is one the world's major banana suppliers.

I had the honor to lunch at the Black Star Line Restaurant with ONECA's Laura Hall. She introduced me to the current president of the Universal Negro Improvement Association. That's right: UNIA and the restaurant was on the ground floor of the historic-landmarked UNIA international headquarters. Laura Hall led me through the streets where I saw campaign posters of black men running for alcalde--mayor.

It was not all peace, though. There were posters raising public consciousness about domestic violence and child exploitation. My solo trip to the supermarket had me spot and choose to dine in a restaurant that posted a sign with the message: We have the right to choose who we give access to eat in this establishment." This restaurant was operated by mestizos; i.e., people not recognized as having African ancestry. Instead of snapping photos of people, I took shots of the street signs, posters and billboards.

My second day in Limon, an op-ed was published in La Nacion daily newspaper on September 30, 2010. If you're not a Spanish-speaker, use Google Translate to read it. A Dr. Jaime Guitierrez, MD wrote about the high crime rate in Costa Rica and purported these crimes were committed most often by residents of Limon. Limon is a town of 105,000 in a country totalling 4.25 million.

This modest sized town is a historically black community that was established for the English-speaking Caribbeans who came to work the banana plantations and the Panama Canal. In recent decades, other Costa Ricans migrated to the town; however, the town is a decidely black community. Dr. Guitierrez says the crime rate will decrease once the residents of Limon are killed. Yes, can you imagine a newspaper publishing such an op-ed? Responses to the piece ranged from mild agreement to strong opposition. From my perspective the op-ed is reminiscent of how the 100-day bloodbath started in Rwanda, the mowing down by the police of Rio de Janeiro's homeless children and the nightly extermination of the indigenous people in Australia. Less I forget, Margaret Sanger's attempt to sterilize or terminate pregnancies of American black women through the Planned Parenthood network.

Dr. Guitierrez doesn't disturb me. It is the editorial board, publisher and general editor of La Nacion who do. Because my Spanish is meager, listening to the radio or Costa Rican TV would have been wasted efforts.

There is a long history of omitting the contributions of black people in Latin American educational systems. Many people, that in America would be considered of African ancestry, in Latin America don't identify themselves as black or of African ancestry because they see no value in doing so. Why do I raise this? Stoking feelings of hate and violence in an environment of ignorance spells trouble--easy trouble.

Dr. Jewel Pookrum did a lecture that covered human genes and our development. She made an analogy between the flowers she saw on the road to a mountain and people. Pookrum observed the various flowers that grew close to one another. Similar flowers, of course aggregated together. The smaller flowers grew toward the edge of the road. Dr. Pookrum said, "It was as if the flowers consciously arranged themselves so that every kind had space under the sun." She marveled at the accomodation within the plant world. She wanted to know why humans weren't as accomodating to themeselves.

If you're associated with an international or regional organization contact them to learn whether they know about Dr. Jaime Gutierrez's op-ed in La Nacion newspaper and what actions they are taking.

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