|A brief history
of Costa Rica III
Development of Latin culture
By Clifford Fain Dukes, Jr.
Special to Retire NOW in Costa Rica
The Spanish conquered Latin America bent on extraction of as much of
the local wealth as possible. When the Spanish conquistadores arrived,
the whole of Latin America had a population of 25 million spread among
eight highly organized cultures, most of them outside of Costa Rica. No
more than 1 million conquistadores subjugated and enslaved the entire
native population. See Carlos Mantaner’s "Twisted
Roots," at Amazon.com. It’s a fascinating read of the development
of the current culture in Latin American.
The conquest of the Americas resulted in a huge loss of life for the
Amerindians everywhere since they had little or no resistance to
European dread diseases. North America tended to be settled by intact
families that pushed the Amerindians out of the way or onto
reservations, then these settlers established a Western-style culture.
early failure of many highways, bridges, and even high end homes. The
most common failure is the use of concrete mixed on site that is placed
hours after its useful life has expired.
|Latin America, on
the other hand, was settled largely by adventurers and single men who
intermingled and married the native populations. The resulting culture
from this grand mixta was
quite different from that of North American, and it bore a very strong
Amerindian and African influence.
Things that North Americans take for granted are not common in Latin
cultures including but not limited to:
1) innocent until proven guilty
— There is a pervasive assumption of guilty until proven innocent;
2) honoring contracts — Many
Latins and their governments take the position that no piece of paper
can make them do anything they don’t want to do;
3) respect for punctuality —
Being 30 minutes to one hour late for any commitment is the norm;
4) completion of work to the highest
quality possible — Major contracts especially for infrastructure
tend to be shoddy and completed to the lowest acceptable standards
resulting in very
A.M. Newspapers archives graphic
Saying invaders were
brutal is an understatement.
In spite of Latino machismo
(which derived from Islamic Sharia Law during the Moorish occupation of
Spain) the family culture tends toward matriarchal, a trait derived
from the Amerindians. Latins are very litigious, suing over any
frivolous personal slight.
While the eight, pre-Columbian indigenous cultures had highly organized
cities, governments, water delivery, and road systems, they had not
discovered the wheel. Virtually all of them enjoyed a hedonistic
lifestyle of promiscuity and alcohol abuse, and very few exhibited
anything close to today’s family values.
The heaviest concentration of natives lived in México, Central
America, The Antilles, Venezuela, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and Chile.
Interestingly, native women participated in their families and
governments to a much greater degree than they would later under
Spain imposed a caste system on its American colonies. The most
privileged class was called peninsulares
or immigrants from Spain. This class was the only one permitted to
occupy ruling or government positions. Their offspring or criollos had to be content with
work as artisans and/or merchants. Beneath the criollos came, in order, mestizos, indigenes, mulattos, sambas, and blacks, most of whom
were used as domestics or slaves. Due to the lack of a pool of white
female immigrants, many of the conquistadores married Amerindians
forming a huge mestizo class.
Spanish domination of Latin America did nothing to encourage individual
initiative, responsibility, or the desire for self-government. Also
Latin America lags the rest of the developed world with respect to an
industrial base due to 300 years of Spanish neglect and the iron fist
of the Roman Catholic Church, as well as that of the conquistadores.
The only industries developed under Spanish rule were sugar, ship
building, and textiles.
Most of Costa Rica’s current day industries are either headquartered in
other countries or are maquilladora
types operating in free trade zones.
The combination of a conquered and enslaved population, forced
dependence on Spain, and the prohibition of trade with countries other
than Spain encouraged the development of schemes to foster contraband
that became ingrained in the Latin American culture and exists to this
NEXT: A brief history
of Costa Rica IV: Government HERE!
Text: Copyrighted 2010 Clifford Fain
Dukes, Jr. Used with permission.