San José is a lot more violent than I thought

I was wrong, my hostmom´s right… I don´t have an allergy for mould but a simple traditional cold. My hostfamily is still fixing the wall next weekend. I had no right to complain – they´re spoiling me here! My hostbrother was telling me how his mom decided that he would take the nightshift waiting my return.

 As I was debating with my hostfamily whether they should be so worried when I go out the news section starts. A man was shot at the Pueblo where I was last night. El Pueblo is a collection of bars and clubs connected with tiny little walking streets – I love the setting. We were allowed to skip the weapons search as we entered. The guy was shot at three, half an hour after we left… we left because I couldn´t stand my new shoes any longer, they were hurting me so badly and I was planning on going home to burn them.

The news showed how the guy that was shot was brought to the emergency room in a critical state and I recognized him. As we had been sitting and chatting at one of the clubs, this guy and his friends were playing table-football… his girlfriend was impatiently waiting, wearing only her bra – I spoke to her because I didn´t understand why she was dressed like that, obviously not having fun and despite her good looks sitting there completely alone and ignored by all the men in the club that had no trouble harrassing us. At least 70% of the crowd were guys, walking around in packs. She pointed out her boyfriend (who was completely ignoring her) and assured me that she was having lots of fun and then continued posing – what for I don´t know. Those serious men playing table-football were quite a mystery to me as well. The news of this guy being shot is followed by a 24 year old woman shot to death in downtown San José… that´s about where we were. And then we got some 3 drunk driving traffic death accidents that nigh… at this point I had lost the debate with my hostfamily.

Costa Rica “el país de Paz”, the country of peace, the most developed country of Central America… the Ticos like to blame the Colombian and Nicaraquan immigrants for the violence in the country and of course everyone remembers better times. Like last night… all that violence was the “Nicas” fault… even though the only “Nica” involved was the girl that was killed. It looks like there are 1-2 people murdered every day in this country but more on the weekends. While I find this shocking, I was a lot more shocked to hear that 40% of all the world´s street children live in Central America and some of the Central American governments condone the social cleansing, the killing, of these children!

I was reading this book on social epidemics The Tipping Point by Gladwell. He explores a few interesting cases including the drop in crime in NYC in the 1980s, the sudden rise of suicides among youth in the island of Micronesia-and the increase in school shootings in the States. He talks about the power of the context and certain types of people in starting social epidemics. The book enourages a sort of alternative thinking when it comes to addressing social problems but like many other books exploring the unconscious it also creates this uncomfortable feeling that we´re not really as autonomous of agents as we would like to think we are. We like to believe our character and morals are constants rooted in our genes and upbringing but our personalities really depend on our environments and the people around at every point in time. How this knowledge can be employed to aid street children in Central America or stop school shooting and suicide fashion trends is an interesting issue to speculate over.

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