A decision by Correos de Costa Rica involving the content of a commemorative stamp clearly shows a divide between Costa Rican and U.S. cultures.
Correos chose part of a local artist’s work that shows two black children on a swing, and one is eating a slice of watermelon.
Almost certainly the artist, officials at Correos and a number of newspaper reporters are totally unaware that the work mimics what is considered a highly racist stereotype in the United States.
Pictures and even songs about watermelons have been used to denigrate blacks since before the end of slavery. More recently President Barack Obama, who is black, has been the target of racist cartoons with watermelon themes. One showed the White House lawn planted in watermelons.
Artist Adrián Gómez uses watermelon slices liberally in his works. He seems enthralled with the Caribbean where many black Costa Ricans live. An Internet search does not show that any reporter or reviewer who wrote about him or his works have mentioned the watermelon stereotype.
The graphic is part of a work by Gómez titled “Tarde de merienda,” translated as an afternoon snack.
The general tone of the stereotype is that black Americans would rather sit around eating watermelon than work. Some
critics have suggested a sexual aspect, too. The Atlantic addressed the issue most recently in 2014 HERE!
The magazine said that after the U.S. Civil War free black people grew, ate, and sold watermelons, and in doing so made the fruit a symbol of their freedom. Southern whites, threatened by blacks’ newfound freedom, responded by making the fruit a symbol of black people’s perceived uncleanliness, laziness, childishness and
unwanted public presence, it added.
The postal service issued the stamp commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Cooperativa de Ahorro y Crédito Coope Ande, which caters to educators.
The 15,000 stamps have a face value of 600 colons.