Logo

12109 - SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW: U.S. CITIZENS IN COSTA RICA 1945-1980

The proposed paper traces the establishment and formation of the U.S. citizens’ Diaspora in Costa Rica over the years 1945-1980. Based on extensive Oral Histories with U.S. migrants in Costa Rica, it focuses on processes of individual and collective identity-making within these people, vis-à-vis their homeland and their adoptive country. In a broader context, the paper addresses questions of contemporary immigration and Transnationalism within the realm of U.S. influence in Central America, from the Cold War era to 1980’s Neo-Colonialism.

The number of U.S. citizens living in Costa Rica grew rapidly following World War II, totaling, officially, more than 5,000 in the 1980s (unofficial estimates range from ten to thirty thousand people). Included among them were U.S. wives of Costa Rican men, employees of U.S. government agencies, businessmen, missionaries, retirees, as well as political and ideological refugees – from Quakers in the 1950s to hippies in the 1970s – who were drawn to Costa Rica because of its image as “Switzerland of Central America.” These immigrants created diverse communities and sub-cultures, from enclaves that sought to reconstruct the U.S. suburb to communes in remote jungles and beaches, whose hybrid nature suggest a cross between 1969s San Francisco with traditional Costa Rican campesinos’ way of life.

This paper forms part of a larger project within the relatively new but growing field which seeks to “reverse the lens” of immigration in the Americas, and look into the significant phenomenon of U.S. citizens emigration to Central America, and the establishment of Diasporas and transnational chains.

Author: Shragai, Atalia (The School of History, Israel / Israel)

Back

University of Vienna | Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Ring 1 | 1010 Vienna | T +43 1 4277 17575