Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

"Saludos desde San Jose!" written by Jack Mace

By Annie Gibson

I am handing over my blog on the CIAPA Experience to the students participating in the program. This way you all can have a better idea of what life is like for a student at CIAPA. This blog entry is written by Currin Wallis. She is a freshman student who has begun her first semester of Tulane at CIAPA in Costa Rica 2012. Pura Vida, Professor Gibson

Jack’s Blog:

Saludos desde San Jose! Greetings!

Hello. I am writing this blog entry from my dorm room, room 205, which sits on the top floor of a large, hotel-like building on the joint Tulane – CIAPA campus in San Jose, Costa Rica. This building is where us Tulane students spend a lot of our time: studying for our various classes, eating, and sleeping, in that order of importance. The time as of now is 2:30 pm, on a Tuesday, October 7. Around me sits piles of essays and sketches strewn across my desk, and in front of me, pinned to a drawing board, is the schedule of my classes for the Fall 2012 Semester, which I double-check constantly out of forgetfulness. If I were to turn around and look out my open door, I would see the miniature rainforest that covers the CIAPA campus, and farther on, a towering golden “M”, for McDonald’s, back-dropped by the rolling, tropical-green hills and mountains that surround the city of San Jose. As I write this, the city is alive with a heavy rain, and thunder rumbles fiercely overhead, as it does almost every afternoon in this place. My name is Jack, and I’m one of the students studying at CIAPA in San Jose, Costa Rica.

As a student here at CIAPA, there is much and more to do, and almost everything we do is tied together with our studies. During the week my five other peers and I go about our daily business: going to class, taking the bus into San Jose, making our way to the local gym of which we have been granted membership, personal trainers, and thumb-print recognition access. Fellow gym members, most of them young, will often greet us with a “pura vida”, or “pure life”, a saying that Ticos (Costa Ricans) are fond of as both greetings and farewells.

On Mondays and Tuesdays, we visit two respective high schools in San Jose and work with English classes there. The last time we visited, we played the Spanish version of Scrabble with the class, and the next two hours saw countless conversations in Spanglish about life in general. The group that connects us with these schools is called the Youth Action Foundation, and it works with high schools all over Costa Rica to improve the quality of education for kids in primary and secondary school.
The rest of the week is spent studying and reading for our busy class schedule, which includes topics like Comparative Politics, Central American Government, and Latin American Art History. All of the classes are humanities, and I miss science, but they blend into such a cohesive study of Latin America – specifically Central America – that I often find myself forgetting which class I’m studying for. Weekends are usually a time to break free from the week’s routine and travel around the area, but occasionally we head out on organized, group weekend trips. So far these trips have led us to the cloud forests of Monteverde, white-water rafting in the mountains of Rara Avis, and, in the future, to the Caribbean beaches of the city of Limon. Again, I can’t express enough the beauty of this place.

Over the course of my stay here, I’ve made attempts to define the identity of this place called “Rich Coast”, and I have found it to be very difficult to pinpoint. Instead, flashes of inspiration will come to me in certain moments, much like the silent flashes of lightning that, late in the night, briefly illuminate the dark masses of mountains that surround CIAPA. I once watched out of a bus window as a series of young people marched on the street, banging unceremoniously and without rhythm on drums; this was Costa Rica. On one of our many weekend trips as a group, we visited the cloud forest of Monteverde, and were able to walk amidst and listen to the forest come alive with rain in the night; this was also Costa Rica. Costa Rica’s identity is hard to define, but I’ve come to the conclusion that Costa Rica is a proud country: proud of its natural splendor, proud of its history as one of the leading countries in Central America in political and economic stability, and proud of its happy people. At the same time, globalization and foreign influence have done their deeds, and Costa Rica’s identity is now attempting to cope with things like a beautiful, unique tropical bird perched on a giant, humming McDonald’s arch. Unfortunately that is only one of many examples of identity crisis. But this brings me to the National Theater.

When the United States was undergoing Industrialization, there began a large movement of appreciating and in turn depicting the vast, previously untouched nature of North America that was now being taken for granted. The United States has its Hudson River Painters, and Costa Rica has the National Theater in San Jose.

While it may be a bit of an overstatement to compare these two countries in terms of rejuvenating the appreciation for the national environment, it is certainly undeniable that both played, and are playing a part in the conservation of national identity when it comes to natural splendor. The National Theater is a huge building at the center of the Plaza of Culture in San Jose, which in turn is in the center of the city. The Plaza was originally built around the Theater, which was one of the first buildings to arise in the area, tall and majestic, dwarfing the one-story colonial homes it stood amidst at the turn of the 20th century. Now it stands as a cultural center for both locals and tourists. On the two occasions I’ve been to the theater (both of which played notable substitutions for our actual Tulane Interdisciplinary class), the shows seemed to emanate an irresistible love affair between Costa Rica and its people.
The first show was a performance by the Jazz pianist Chucho Valdez and his band, the Afro-Cuban Messengers. The performance was impossible to describe with words, but I can say that it gave me a newfound appreciation for Latin American music. When I got back to CIAPA I immediately downloaded all of Valdez’ music from “iTunes”. The performance was also unique in that involved the crowd pretty vehemently. Towards the end the band had everyone in the theater dancing, singing, and clapping. I can’t say for sure that this is a Costa Rican quality, but I can say that I would rarely see that in Seattle, Washington (where I’m from).

The second performance celebrated an anniversary of the Theater, and involved three separate acts of dance. Throughout the show we saw naked women and men running around attempting not to conform to society; a man and a woman falling in and out of love with fiery Latin flare; and a slow, ritualistic dance with big jungle cats, lots of water, and artificial steam and bird noises. All of these acts shared the same quality of attempting to celebrate Costa Rican culture, and by the end, it had succeeded at least with me. Of course, I acknowledge that these performances are filtered from real experiences with these aspects of Costa Rican culture, but when it was over I at least had the feeling that I knew Costa Rica a little better.

In conclusion, come to Costa Rica, but don’t go to college here – there are too many distractions. While you are here, please visit the National Theater.

Pura vida,

Jack Mace

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Annie Gibson

    Professor of Practice/Director of the Early Experience at CIAPA

BLOG AUTHORS & RECENT POSTS

LATEST SITE UPDATES

More

Upcoming Events

Day of the Dead at the Ogden!

View Full Event Description

Celebrate Día de los muertos at the Ogden! As part of the Ogden's After Hours Ruemba Buena will perform. Specializing in salsa and meringue, this band is made up of musicians who, pre-Katrina, played in groups like Los Babies and Los Sagitarios. It's the brainchild of percussionist Johnny Marcia. Kids craft table will feature Day of the Dead activities and delicious food will be available.

For more information please contact Jane Marie Dawkins, 504.539.9650, music@ogdenmuseum.org.

Sponsored by Tulane’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and the Consulate of Mexico in New Orleans.

The Guantánamo Public Memory Project

View Full Event Description

The Guantánamo Public Memory Project is a traveling exhibit that examines the history of the U.S. naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, from multiple perspectives and raises questions about U.S.-Cuban relations, civil liberties, national security, and public memory in the past, present, and future.

For more information about the Guantánamo Public Memory Project, visit http://gitmomemory.org.

The exhibit will run from September 2nd to October 30th. All are welcome to stop by and see the exhibit during open hours of Jones Hall, or during one of the special events of the exhibit (to be posted).

Shooting from the Hip: Mexico

View Full Event Description

The Consulate of Mexico in New Orleans is pleased to partner with the satellite program P.3+ of the biennial Prospect New Orleans to present the photographic exhibition of artist Michael Alford "Shooting From The Hip: Mexico" from October 2nd to October 30th, 2014.

An opening reception will be held October 2nd at 6 PM.

Michael Alford is a multidisciplinary Conceptual artist. His work ranges from documentary photography, large scale public sculpture to Land Art. "My work often explores and challenges the conventional ideas of Art and what can be used to create it." Michael spent the first half of his life as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces Special Operations. He earned his B.F.A. from Baylor University while on active duty and recently an M.F.A from Louisiana State University. The artwork of artist Michael Alford has been exhibited and found in several corporate, private, national and international collections.

In his artist statement Michael Alford explains: "On a recent trip to Mexico City, I decided to take a different approach. In a more Conceptual attitude, a plan was formulated and the project began. The images would be captured in a more "street/gorilla" fashion. My camera was concealed in a shoulder bag and images were taken using a remote control. The images would not be manipulated post process and presented as such. I did however; use different lenses and filters according to lighting or weather conditions. What you see is what I got. I did not attempt to take or make a perfect photograph. For this project, I worked intuitively with the camera yet allowed the camera to find its own composition. These images represent a real, raw and non-manipulated moment in time. It is a unique flash of life that can't and won't ever be replicated. More than 200 images were captured but these are some of my favorites."

Guantánamo: Cuban and Haitian Refugee Stories

View Full Event Description

Guantánamo: Cuban and Haitian Refugee Stories

Guest speakers:
Holly Ackerman, Duke University, author of The Cuban Balseros: Voyage of Uncertainty
Aurora de Armendi, Artist, Parsons School of Design, Cuban Refugee at GTMO 1994-1995
Carlos Smith Fontaine, Haitian Sea Migrant, US Naval Base Guantánamo Bay, 1991
Sht. Terrence Mitchell, US Marines Corps, US Naval Base Guantánamo Bay, 1995-1997
Carlos Porto Saez, Cuban Balsero, US Naval Base Guantánamo Bay, 1994-1995

The Guantánamo Public Memory Project is a traveling exhibit that examines the history of the U.S. naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, from multiple perspectives and raises questions about U.S.-Cuban relations, civil liberties, national security, and public memory in the past, present, and future. The guest speakers will be giving a talk on the titled event. All are welcome to attend.

For more information about the Guantánamo Public Memory Project, visit http://gitmomemory.org.

The CubaNOLA Arts Collective presents - The Jorge Luis Pacheco Jazz Trio direct from Cuba

View Full Event Description

The CubaNOLA Arts Collective presents:
The Jorge Luis Pacheco Jazz Trio
Direct from Cuba

Tuesday, October 28 – sets at 8pm and 10pm
Snug Harbor, 626 Frenchmen St

Thursday, October 30 – sets at 8pm and 10pm
The Prime Example, 1909 N. Broad St. (corner of St. Bernard Ave)

Cuban jazz piano player, Jorge Luis Pacheco is making waves in the Havana jazz scene. His trio will be returning to New Orleans for performances on Tuesday October 28 and Thursday October 30. The trio features Havana-based Jorge Luis Pacheco, with New York-based Ivan Llanes Montejo on drums and percussion, and Carlos Mena on bass. Jorge Luis combines his classical training with his passion for jazz and playful touches of popular Cuban and American music. With his parents being prominent opera and choir directors, it's only fitting that Jorge Luis will sing a few songs as part of these performances. Don't miss this rare opportunity to experience first hand the next generation of contemporary Cuban music.

For more information please email info@cubanola.org

Day of the Dead with the LPO: Pan American Life Fiesta Sinfonica: La Triste Historia

View Full Event Description

The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO), in association with Pan American Life, will celebrate Day of the Dead through a multimedia concert experience entitled “La Triste Historia.” Renowned Mexican composer Juan Trigos, director Ben Young Mason, and executive producer Duncan Copp have paired Juan Trigos' evocative Symphony No. 3 with an artistic and fantastical animated film. Follow the tragic, dream-like tale of two young lovers, set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution, culminating in the celebration of The Day of the Dead.

Featured Musical Pieces:
Juan Trigos: Symphony No. 3
Carlos Chavez: Symphony No. 2 “Sinfonia India”
Alberto Ginastera: Four Dances from Estancia
Jose Pablo Moncayo: Huapango

For more information or to purchase tickets please visit the LPO Website.