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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Make Dance, Not War!

It’s Veterans’ Day there in the U.S. of A., and I understand Wall Street is open for business. Says a lot about how much the capitalists think of our troops, doesn’t it? “Just keep America safe … for our profits,” I suppose would be their motto.

Here in Costa Rica, my thoughts are on the men and women in uniform all around the world, visualizing their safe return to their families and an end to all the conflicts, and I’m remembering my father who fought in World War II with the Navy Seabees. As much of a pacifist as I consider myself to be, I was reminded this morning of the importance of Costa Rica’s friendship with the armed nations of the hemisphere when I saw headlines stating: “U.S. Willing To Help In Costa Rica - Nicaragua Dispute If Asked” and “Canada Offers Costa Rica Military Aid.”  It seems that the disagreement with Nicaragua over just where the international border between the two nations lies is not yet over. Nicaragua is accusing Costa Rica of “expansionist pretensions,” while Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla calls the San Juan River dredging by Nicaragua “the invasion of one nation [by] another.”

Apparently, the river has changed its course over the decades since the Cañas-Jerez  treaty of 1858  established the meandering waterway as the official dividing line between the two nations. In that agreement, Costa Rica’s northern boundary was identified as the southern bank of the river, with Nicaragua owning the river itself but granting Costa Rica unrestricted use of the waterway. An area known in Costa Rica as Isla Calero, but as Isla Portillo in Nicaragua, is now the contested part of a vast network of lagoons and water channels that makes up the eastern mouth of the San Juan where it empties into the Atlantic. And in an almost comical twist to the tale, Costa Rican media is blaming Google Maps for the confusion because it shows Isla Calero as being in Nicaraguan territory. Although Nicaragua denies that it relied on the maps, Google officials are scrambling to correct what they say was an “inaccuracy” in their online service. (Image courtesy of Search Engine Land.) 

In an effort at peace-making, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) has recommended that all armed forces leave the disputed area on the Rio San Juan and that the two countries cooperate to clarify and demarcate the boundary. So far, Nicaragua has refused to remove its troops, arguing that they are on their own national soil, not trespassing on Costa Rican land. In fact, on Wednesday afternoon, the entire Nicaraguan National Assembly, which is ordinarily divided and squabbling along partisan lines, held a special legislative session in a local gym on the banks of the San Juan to send a unified message of defiance to Costa Rica and the OAS. But this is not the first time these two countries have argued about borders and it likely won’t be the last. Evidently, Nicaragua holds an historical grudge for Costa Rica’s annexation of the northern province of Guanacaste and the Nicoya Peninsula 186 years ago, following a democratic vote by residents there to join the nation to the south instead of Nicaragua to the north. Time to get over it, boys!

Meanwhile, life here in Atenas, many miles away from Rio San Juan, seems unaffected by the quarrel. We are yet to hear any of our Tico friends discuss the situation and the regular Friday feria or farmers’ market has been busy as always. Unfortunately, the organic feria has been suspended indefinitely because the recent heavy rains ruined much of the crops and transportation problems related to washed out roads has prevented deliveries. But the children’s dance festival was held last weekend as scheduled and it was a festive affair indeed, with homemade food dishes and desserts for sale and cars parked in every available space near the Catholic Church community center.

Billed as “Una Hora Para Bailar” or An Hour For Dance, it was put on by Su Espacio (Your Space), an activity center and dance studio that offers ballet classes, English and Spanish classes, Pilates and aerobics, volunteer services and more. An annual event under the direction of Su Espacio owner Tina, the festival has been in the works for weeks. In fact, for a few of those weeks, I served as a volunteer dance instructor in the children’s ballet classes and watched as they perfected their routines for the event.

As usual for community affairs here in Atenas, the turnout was large and enthusiastic. Many local schools were represented, each putting forth costumed dancers to fill the stage with color and energetic movement. Cheering clusters of kids in the audience made it clear which team they supported and parents and grandparents beamed their pride. For about $3 per person, Layne and I enjoyed an evening of youthful dance in a lively atmosphere that truly captured the spirit of Pura Vida!

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