plymouth state university nicaragua club visits Costa Rica
In January, the PSU Nicaragua Club carried out an alternative trip to Costa Rica to make up for their canceled trip to Nicaragua last May. The group worked at the ReNuevos Center that is located in La Carpio, an empoverished neighborhood outside of San Jose where the marjority of the residents are Nicaraguans who have moved to Costa Rica in search of employment. ReNuevos is an organization that carries out diverse programs with youth to prevent crime, drug use and violence. Programs include athletics, education, handicrafts and community service activities.
Since the political unrest in Nicaragua began in mid April there have been reports of thousands of Nicaraguans fleeing to Costa Rica due to government repression. La Carpio is mentioned as one of the neighborhoods where refugees have been arriving to stay with friends and family. The Costar Rican government has granted refugee status to Nicaraguans who have arrived since April and who have applied for the special status. ReNuevos has been supporting these refugees.
Compas co-director, Ana Narvaez visited La Carpio and ReNuevos in November to organize the PSU Nicaragua Club's trip. The Nicaraguans she spoke to have not noticed an influx of residents arriving in La Carpio since April. She found, however, that many Nicaraguans in La Carpio are upset that other long term residents of La Carpio have taken advantage of the Costa Rican government's refugee program to apply for a preferencial and legal refugee status. They say that these long term residents are not refugees from the political unrest in Nicaragua, but have been living for years in La Carpio.
There is resentment that residents who are more established and more stable economically are recieving special benefits from legal refugee status and support from the ReNuevos Center. It appears that ReNuevos has received funding for refugees of the political unrest in Nicaragua. With money, resources, and legal refugee status available to working class Nicaraguans struggling to survive in Costa Rica, Ana understands why many would be tempted to pretend to be refugees.
Ana did meet people and families who described themselves as refugees who fled Nicaragua since April due to government repression. She also met people who fled Nicaragua to escape the violence of the opposition road blocks. However, by far the majority of Nicaraguans she spoke to in La Carpio left Nicaragua for Costa Rica in search of employment and economic opportunity.
Here is a summary written by the students about their trip:
PSU Service Trip 2018
The majority of our group was their first service trip experience in a developing county, it was eye opening for both the new and old members for a number of reasons. We learned that people living in poverty are incredibly adaptive, they find creative and innovative ways to get what they need with the little resources that they have, and majority of the community members grow off of each others positivity. As a group we visited an undocumented community called La Carpio and each day we helped their community center by doing outside clean up and repainting. We also met with Nicaraguan refugees and heard their stories. They each shared their experience/ thoughts about the conflict going on Nicaragua, but there will always be two sides to every issue. We can’t get information from one source and call it a day. Sometimes the truth is elusive and you need to work to find it. We learned that the U.S. media coverage of the conflict in Nicaragua is not 100% accurate. As a result, we as a group feel it is our responsibility to share with people back home that there are two very conflicting perspectives of the recent tragedy’s in Nicaragua. Overall we were very grateful for this amazing experience and to connect with people who live different lives than ourselves.