By Carolina LopezSpecial to CSMS MagazineSouth Florida is truly a melting pot consisting of a large Hispanic community. However, many people seem to overlook the fact that within the Hispanic community, there is a wide range of ethnic and cultures and even subcultures that need to be taken into account. Among them is the presence of many Spanish Speaking citizens who are from Costa Rica, a country with a distinct and interesting culture. A teacher should be cognizant of the Costa Rican culture prior to teaching students who are from Costa Rica. Some information that would give a teacher insight into the world of a student who is form Costa Rica would be the following: the family structure and traditions, government, their education system, and the location. Costa Rica is located in southern Central America between Panama and Nicaragua. The family structure and traditions in Costa Rica consists mostly of single mothers. Although the male is usually absent from the home, the mother and her children have very close family ties. The vast majority of Costa Rican people are White, mainly of Spanish decent. The Costa Ricans call themselves Ticos or Ticas (male and female). This supposedly stems from their love of the use of diminutives such as chico (small) becoming chiquito or chiquitico. However, you don’t hear the tico ending as much as you used to. Costa Ricans are friendly, and polite people. However, their friendliness and politeness tend to form somewhat of a shell over their true personalities. It is easy to make friends with a Tico, but much more difficult to form deeper relationships. Because of the overwhelmingly European populations, there is very little indigenous culture influence. Costa Rican’s unique traits derive form a profoundly conscious self-image, which orients much of their behavior as both individuals and as a nation. The Costa Ricans feel distinct from their neighbors by their “whiteness” and relative lack of indigenous culture. Ticos identify themselves first and foremost as Costa Rican and only Central Americans or Latin American, as an afterthought. Regardless of wealth or status, Costa Ricans act with utmost humility. Boasting of any kind is usually frowned upon. They believe in leaving a good impression, and are frightened of embarrassing themselves, or appearing rude, vulgar or unhelpful. Costa Rica is famous for its natural beauty and friendly people, rather then its culture. San Jose is considered to be the cultural center of the country. In San Jose, the most important museums are found, and it is the center of the acting community. In Costa Rica, the theater is one of the favorite cultural activities. The most famous theater in the country is the Teatro Nacional (National Theater), built between 1890 and 1897. Violence was once rare in Costa Rica until foreign influence, modernity, and social change came to play. Drug abuse and a general idleness previously unknown in Costa Rica have intruded. Costa Rican Spanish, as most Spanish in Latin America, is extremely polite and sometimes formal. Ticos mention luck and God a lot in their speech: “Que Dios lo acompane” (May God go with you), or if you meet them for the first time, “Mucho gusto” (it’s a pleasure). The following website offers free tutors to people who want to learn a language. http://www.languagetutors.org/index.php. A teacher can use this site to help him/her communicate with the ESOL student. Besides traditions that revolve around the family, there are also several significant religious celebrations. The main religious events are: Easter week or Semana Santa, Christmas Week and August second, which is the celebration of the Virgin of the Angels. Easter is a time most of the people go to the beach to relax. Others choose to stay home, or join religious celebration at church. The same phenomenon occurs during the Christmas celebration. Families gather to display nativity scenes at their homes and to celebrate the “posadas”, a custom where children, playing shepherds house to house sing Christmas carols, re-enacting the journey of Mary and Joseph. The “Rosario del Nino” is a rosary the families pray to conclude the Christmas celebration. Musicians perform traditional carols while the partygoers feast on traditional meals. One of the most typical foods is tamales. The food is a fusion cuisine. It combines elements of culinary traditions from Africa, Italy, France, China, and Spain. The food is mild to slightly season. The most common dishes that reflect the rural culture and area served in typical food restaurants are Gallo Pinto (Spotted Rooster) and Casados (Married) Gallo Pinto consists of rice and beans seasoned with coriander, onions and Worcestershire sauce. Casado consists of white rice, black or red beans. Common refreshments are Horchata (Ground Rice & Cinnamon Drink), Pinolillo (Corn Cocoa Drink), or Resbalader (Rice &Barley Drink). Common deserts are queque seco (Orange Pound Cake), Torta Chilena, Miel de Chiverre (Sweet White Spaghetti Squash). And Tres Leches, Arroz con leche (rice pudding). The following website can be used by the teacher to show the students the different dishes Costa Ricans prepare as a part of their culture. http://www.all-creatures.org/recipes/spinpotbeans-cr-pic.html These pictures can be posted around the classroom during the multicultural month in February, or as a result of a history lesson. The following website has a quiz so the teacher can test her knowledge of the Costa Rican culture after a brief lesson. http://www.facesofcostarica.com/catholicism/index.htm More than 90 percent of Costa Ricans are catholic. The Catholic marriage ceremony is the only church marriage with state recognition. Catholicism is the official state religion as mandated by the Constitution of 1949. Older people tend to be more pious than the younger generation. However, without attending church a vast majority ofthe population considers themselves to be catholic, and have an inherited respect for the church. Other major religions have their representations in Costa Rica. Among them are: Judaism, with a Synagogue in San Jose, Buddhism, Hinduism and the Islam. Democracy is Costa Rica’s most treasured institution. The ideal of personal liberty is strongly cherished. On the eve of Independence Day, the whole nation comes to a halt and signs the national anthem. The following website plays the different countries national anthems.http://www.geocities.com/TheTropics/8106/Anthems/costarica.htm The teacher can incorporate this site into their curriculum on social studies. The teacher can play the different countries national anthems while teaching them about the culture. Costa Rica has more teachers tan policemen. Their education system sets them apart form many less fortunate countries in the world. Many rulers have been educators. They place great importance in the expansion of primary and secondary education. Costa Rica has a 93 percent literacy level. Primary education lasts six years, while high school education might be five or six years. There are many private schools where more well-to-do families usually send their children. President Jose Maria Figueres (1994-1998) declared the teaching of English and Computer Science as mandatory in all the nation’spublic schools. Students in public schools wear an official uniform in order to lessen social and economic distinctions between students. Local community groups provideopportunities for sport, music, art, ecology, and many other interests. In summary, the Internet and the school library have a lot of information for the teacher to use that will enhance the curriculum. The teacher will be better equipped to communicate with the student from the diverse culture. Some students will come speaking, no English, a little English, or conversational English. Some Costa Rican students will arrive at school speaking some English because it is required that they learn how to speak the language in Costa Rica school. However, the student will still need help learning the English language and culture.Reference:Language Tudors.org. Retrieved on 10/8/05 from the World Wide Web: http://www.languagetutors.org/index.php.Spinach, Potatoes and Black Beans, Costa Rican Style. From all creatures.org. Vegan Vegetarian Recipe Book. How mary and frank and friends eat. Retrieved on 10/8/05 from the World Wide Web:http://www.all- creatures.org/recipes/spinpotbeans-cr-pic.html The National Anthem of Costa Rica. Retrieved on 10/8/05 from the World Wide Web: http://www.geocities.com/TheTropics/8106/Anthems/costarica.htmJ. Crabb. (2003). Faces of costa rica. Retrieved on 10/8/05 from the World Wide Web: http://www.facesofcostarica.com/ Note: Carolina Lopez is the newest contributor of CSMS Magazine. She is an energetic university student at Florida International University.