Family Life and Climate

Family Life

…and just life in general.

Family life in Costa Rica was a complicated subject, but I witnessed most of the information I gathered from just walking the streets of San José. Whether or not the houses are small, most Costa Ricans live with their extended family in one house. Big holidays (días de fiesta grandes) and social events in Costa Rica is mostly visiting relatives and partying together. For the few families that don’t live with their extended family, they visit each other on Sundays (domingos) and special occasions to go to church or just be with each other. Aww…isn’t that cute, black bean adorers? Before birth control in the 1960s, most houses had five or more children. I must say that women went through a lot back then. I even visited a family who had a child with twelve aunts and uncles on his father’s side and seven aunts and uncles on his mother’s side; a hectic family.

In the early 20th century, married life was supposed to go forever, para siempre, and especially in richer families, many marriages were arranged by the fathers on both families, and so divorce was considered a disgrace, una deshonra, and people avoided people who had had divorce(s) before, especially women. Recently divorce is getting much more frequent, but most people still think talking about their divorce is an embarrassing thing and avoid talking about them, and so separation and desertion are much more widely used, though I think if a married couple isn’t going to live together anyway because they don’t want to, why stay married?

Women’s rights in Costa Rica are still not completely settled, and though gradually it is getting better, the society in Costa Rica is overall still chauvinistic, the only thing I dislike about Costa Rica as a female myself. But a better change that is happening slowly is that there are more and more women joining the labor force, making women more powerful. However, many women are still just housewives, and many are victims of domestic violence. Even more in the country side, women, (wives) are used more like housemaids and slaves and are beaten by their husbands and fathers. But due to Costa Rica’s first female president elected in 2010, women are leaving a more powerful image to men and there is a slow but steady effect to women’s rights.

The national religion in Costa Rica is Roman Catholicism (you can read more about that on my page Religion and Current Events!), and if the family a baby was born in is Catholic, the baby is baptized, bautizado, as soon as it is born by their grandparents if they are alive, which I dearly hope they are. If not they are either baptized by its parents or a pastor. A child’s first birthday, a quince, is a big occasion and the parents always hold a large party inviting all of their family members and friends, just like in Korea. Birthdays excepting the quince doesn’t matter very much to children and adults alike, but married couples celebrate their silver (25 year) and golden (50 year) wedding anniversaries like birthdays with gifts and cake and friends.

…And that is one fantastic cake. ¡Bendiga esto torta!

Now to a darker subject..death and funerals.

Funerals are required by law in 24 hours after death, I mean, that’s understandable, you can’t have rotting corpses everywhere, right? So they do funerals like everyone else does. When someone dies, friends and family are contacted by phone. Then the mourners go to the home of the dearly departed and cry there until the next day, when the funeral happens. Mourners have a church service, blow their noses and look sharp in their black clothes (white is not acceptable), head to a nearby cemetery, pray and say a few words praising the dead, and they get that coffin in the ground. When the coffin is covered, the mourners leave to mourn somewhere else. Religious memorial services go on for nine days at the departed’s home and church and then when it’s over they have a service once every month, then once every year a year later.  A few years after that, they stop, letting the dead go. On November 2nd, the Day of the Dead, el día de los muertos, people find the place their dearly departed is buried and say prayers and leave flowers on their head stone every single year because they believe the soul is eternal, eterno.

Costa Ricans are mostly hospitable and gracious, as I learned on my trip (oh right, gracias to everyone who helped me there!), but they mostly socialize only with their little circle of family and friends, and new friends are made at school, church, and ahem, bars and clubs. About dating, dating is uncommon before the 21st century, but even these days it only happens among the young ones. Urban families have adults take girls under 18 to dates and accompany them the whole time. If a boy and a girl go on one date people assume that they are in a relationship and cannot date other people, so in Costa Rica you can’t really just try someone out once, if you go to the movies together once, bam! you’re together, just like that.

Costa Ricans live better than most other Central Americans and live in beautiful houses, casas hermosas, made of wood and concrete with wooden or tiled floors. The poor whom live in the city, la ciudad, live in tiny, dirty, crowded houses. Education is mandatory form ages 6-15, but many are able to go to college. …But what use is it if many go to college not knowing how to read or write like they do in Costa Rica? Still, richer Costa Ricans send their children to private schools where the level of education is higher.

Climate in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is, if you look on a map, fairly close to the equator, el ecuador, making it a pretty warm country, averaging a year long temperature of 24˚C. Costa Rica basically only has two season, dry, verano, and rainy, invierno. It is dry from January to May and rainy from May to December. It is warm from March through May and a little chillier from June to February. Costa Rica has some rain forest, and in these area it is very rainy. Other areas are like deserts. Some areas get six meters of rain, other areas get six millimeters. In the 1990s an area in Costa Rica held a world record of rainy days- 359 rainy days in a year!

In Costa Rica, when it rains, it really pours. On rainy days the morning starts sunny and starts raining in the afternoon. If it doesn’t rain in the afternoon, you can tell that it will be a sunny day. A simple weather rule-of-thumb for beginning Costa Rica travelers. The Caribbean slope is rainy from April to December and dry the other months are dry. On the Pacific slope it is rainy from May to November and once again dry during the other months.

December to May is in general the warmest, driest, most pleasant season and is the best time to go traveling. I have visited Costa Rica twice now, and the first time I made the mistake of going in July… I got wet everyday and when it was sunny, it was so humid I could feel the water in the air drop on my skin like dew. The second time though, I knew better.

La Mapa de Costa Rica

A tip for anyone going on a trip to Costa Rica:

1. Shorts and t-shirts are fine all year long. Lightweight cottons and linens should work all year.

2. You must must MUST bring waterproof clothing.

3. Mosquito repellent should be with you at all times. Also, if you don’t want to be majorly sun burned, take some sunscreen.

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