Don’t Pay the Ransom… I Escaped!

Old joke… I’ve been away from the blog for quite a while. I wasn’t kidnapped, though, just ran out of things to say, or at least constructive things to say. But recently I decided that in addition to what I’ve done so far, maybe I will wander off the ‘innocuous’ path a little and risk ruffling a few feathers.

Item one: A Tico promise. One of the more infuriating things we gringos encounter with the locals is their tendency to make promises and not keep them. I know a few Ticos who are always on time and always call if they somehow can’t do something or do it at the promised time. But by and large I have found Ticos to treat promises and and similar commitments quite lightly, as if they were something else altogether than what I thought they were promising.

My conclusion is that Ticos tend to think of a promise as more like a compliment than an actual commitment. If a Tico says he’ll call you next week to go with you to help you with some chore, you can’t really expect him to follow through, and he’ll be surprised if you are angry with him. A promise is nothing more than a vague maybe to an awful lot of Ticos. A promise is just something nice they may say to you, a courtesy of sorts, like telling somebody that they look nice, or calling you ‘mi amor.’ You aren’t their love, and they don’t really intend to call or show up when they say they will.

Item 2: The Roman Catholic Church and the law. Before I get accused of being anti-Catholic, I hasten to say my mother’s side of the family were quite devout, and I was raised in that faith. My dear maternal grandparents, especially my grandmother Susie, was very devout. My mother not so much but she still insisted that my brother and I spend every Saturday morning listening to a nun or priest teaching us what we were supposed to believe about God and whatnot.

Growing up in the USA in the 50s and 60s, Catholics were not a majority, and we never expected that the government would follow instructions from the Church. Ah, but here in Costa Rica… the Church has an official role to play in government. It’s role is written into the constitution and it is the official religion of the country. The Catholic Church is not only tax exempt, but actually receives government money and what’s more, Catholic dogma is taught in all public schools. Religion is a required subject. The Catholic religion. Take THAT, you Jews, Protestants and non-believers!

Similar situations exist or existed in most of Latin America. Until 1991 it was the official religion of Colombia too, which brings me to what I want to talk about, and what will possibly offend some of my readers. If so, I don’t do it just to offend.

This week, in Colombia, a ten year old girl gave birth to a baby. This weekend, a friend of mine went to a barbecue where the hostess’ cousin, 14 years of age, was nursing her newborn. When asked who the father was, the cousin wasn’t sure, she could narrow it down to three possibles though. A start, I suppose. Allow me to inject here that the official sex-education policy, dictated by the Roman Catholic Church in Costa Rica, is… wait for it… ABSTINENCE ONLY!!! Winner winner chicken dinner! ding ding ding! Strangely enough, the policy doesn’t work any better in Costa Rica than the USA. Actually, teen pregnancy here far outstrips the USA.

The mono-culture here is very tolerant of child mothers. A gringo friend had a step daughter who became pregnant at 13. He was enraged and wanted to prosecute the ‘father’ for rape. The family thought he was crazy. They were all excited. A new BABY… how WONDERFUL!!!! He finally gave up.

Aside from the fact that I don’t see 13 or 14 year old girls as ideal mothers, there is a price that will be paid here by the girl and by society too. Society isn’t going foot the bill directly other than providing a free hospital stay when the child mother gives birth. After that, the mother and baby are left to fend for themselves, as far as the government is concerned. There are a few token programs but very few child mothers will be getting assistance from that direction.

Well past 13 and not a Tica, but you get the idea

With luck, the child mother and her baby will get help from family and friends. Job opportunities for unemployed 13 year old single mothers? To call them scarce would be optimistic. And the baby? Likely to receive just enough education to learn to read and write, then join the labor force, along with her mama who will often be mistaken for her sister. Good for the economy? Well, yes, if you are looking for a housekeeper who will work for starvation wages. In that case, it’s all good. Of course there is always the shadow economy, and it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to guess where the majority of drug dealers, muggers, thieves and street walkers come from. I’m not quite brave enough to do a detailed survey. And neither is the Costa Rican government, or maybe they just don’t care. Probably #2.

The fact is that those in power live quite well be behind their razor wire topped walls with their MP15 carrying private guards. They are quite right to think it’s cheaper to hire another guard or two (at minimum wage) than to do anything to reduce the number of poor and jobless if it results in higher taxes. Yep… hire another guard, screw paying higher taxes or doing anything real to reduce child motherhood.

Life in a well-staffed (by minimum wage domestics) mansion in a well guarded (by minimum wage guards) compound is pura vida indeed.

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  1. Interesting take. My housekeeper, who was "married" at 15 and has stayed with the same man for 19 years, takes the pill. But she won't give it to her 18 year old daughter because the priest says that premarital sex is wrong.



  3. You're blaming the Church?- Wouldn't it be better to blame the men who impregnated these young girls? If it became a case of rape and these men were thrown in prison with hard labor maybe they would think twice about unzipping their panrts, Disgusting!!!!