Saturday, March 19, 2011

Costa Rica and Nicaragua – “Ticos” versus “Nicas”

One of the things that really surprised me since moving to Costa Rica is the amount of hostility many Costa Ricans (often referred to as “Ticos”) have towards Nicaraguans (or “Nicas” for short).  Nicaragua is the country of Central America that borders Costa Rica to the north.  The two countries have been involved in border disputes for decades; the latest of which became so heated that is it now being settled by the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Besides the political issues Costa Rica has with Nicaragua, many Ticos also hold a very disparaging view of the Nicaraguan people themselves.  It is estimated that there are somewhere between 600,000 to 1,000,000 Nicaraguans currently living in Costa Rica, a country whose entire population is only about 4.5 million.  Although most Ticos will only make jokes or poke fun at what they consider the inferiority of the Nicas, many others border on bigotry when expressing their sentiments.  The following are a few examples of comments made by Costa Ricans on comment threads discussing the subject:

“Nicas come to Costa Rica illegally and a lot of them just come to do bad things like robbery and murder.”
“They don't respect the Costa Rican laws, and if you watch the Costa Rican news channels you'll see that most of the bad things that happen in Costa Rica are because of Nicaraguans!!!”
“They take Costa Ricans' Jobs and the WORST of it all is that all the money they make in Costa Rica they send it to Nicaragua!! So they are making the Costa Rican Economy to go down... it's not balanced!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Why Are There So Many Nicaraguans in Costa Rica?

Many Nicaraguans are crossing into Costa Rica looking for jobs and access to better health and educational resources.  Someone made the comment to me that Nicaraguans chance crossing illegally into Costa Rica to find the “Costa Rican dream”, just like many Mexicans enter the U.S. illegally to find the “American dream”.

Of course, some Costa Ricans do see a benefit to having Nicaraguans in their country since, for the most part, the Nicaraguans are taking the jobs that the Costa Ricans really don’t want to do themselves.  Many maids and farm laborers, for instance, are Nicaraguan born.  Although Nicaraguans in Costa Rica suffer general derogatory treatment from Costa Ricans, and they often remain in a state of poverty even after arriving here, it is interesting to note that they continue to cross the border from Nicaragua into Costa Rica in large numbers.


Anonymous said...

The hostility seems to be widespread. I've spoken to many Naturalized American's of Costa Rican descent who still seem to hold a prejudice towards the Nicaraguan population even after coming to the USA.

Very insightful post, Jane!

Anonymous said...

Hmm, takes a page from comparative advantage arguments seen in many developed(ing) countries of bringing in labor for jobs that are not economically preferred by indigenous folk - America and Mexico, Canada and Sri Lanka, UAE and India ... and the list goes on.

- Tee

Tee is the founder and senior editor of Costa Rica CLOSEUP a Travel Guide to Costa Rica with Events, Articles and Information for everyone traveling, retiring and/or purchasing real estate in Costa Rica. Please visit for more information.

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