Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
Reading the story about the two expats being singled out for criticism in a public document, allegedly written by the mayor of the Talamanca canton, for their active participation in the life of a community where they are legal residents, pay taxes, and contribute in numerous other ways to that community’s quality of life, particularly in regards to protecting the environment, was more than disturbing, given that it comes on the heels of two pretty high profile murders in recent years of people, one an expat and the other a Tico, who dared to speak up and question the varied powers that be, especially in relation to environmental issues.
I also took the story personally because Carol Meeds is a friend of mine whose professional background and experience make her more than qualified to speak out on issues pertaining to the environment. She was one of the first people to point out to me that much of the rapid, most often expat driven construction, development, and related deforestation in and around Puerto Viejo was occurring with little to no real regard for the environmental impact those activities were having.
One needn’t be a trained environmentalist, biologist, or scientist to see that unfortunately reality. All one has to do is use your senses.
For example, for years as one walked along the beach or the road just beyond the landmark bar and restaurant long known as Stanford’s, the stench of raw sewage and grey water flowing from an oversized outflow pipe from the back side of town right into the lagoon where hundreds of people swim and frolic was enough to gag the proverbial maggot.
I’ve not been back to Puerto Viejo in three years, but friends tell me that maggot still gags and the construction of buildings whose waste waters flow into that pipe and into the lagoon continues largely unabated.
Along with this apparent attack by a government official, I think it is also important to note that Ms. Meeds’ activism and speaking out on behalf of the environment have also resulted in her incurring the wrath and animosity of many expats who, through the years, have revealed themselves to be more interested in cashing in on Costa Rica’s pura vida mystique than they are in protecting and preserving the country’s authentic pura vida traditions and customs.
This is all so sad because it is just further proof, at least to me, that the wonderfully funky little town at the end of what was once little more than a long dirt road to nowhere that I landed in16 years ago has, like so many other once beautiful and special places, been discovered and with that discovery has come the sounding of the death knell for the very things that made it so special in the first place.
To Carol Meeds and Philippe Vangoidsenhoven, I say, “Ten cuidado.” You are swimming with some pretty mean and hypocritical fish in those warm Caribbean waters.