Costa Rica Tourism White Paper

              Costa Rica is the most popular tourism destination in Central America for US visitors. According to Costa Rica’s International Institute of Tourism, the country is a republic with 4.8 million inhabitants as of 2017, with a projected 3 million visitors same-year. The country boasts a large period of its history in peace, and has the highest financial and white-collar sectors in the Central America. Its people are predominantly of European Spanish descent. Costa Rica has made significant investment in tourism marketing to supplement its plurality agricultural sector.1 This paper discusses strategies to attract United States consumers while striking the delicate balance of economic growth and sustainability.

              Costa Rica has had limited turmoil throughout its 500-odd year history after first European contact, with the final revolution and disarmament occurring in 1949.2 Like the rest of the

Central America declared themselves independent in 1821.3 This provenance has allowed an early flourishing of a tourism sector, giving Costa Rica a head-start. The climate is like most of its counterparts in Central America, with temperate rainforests and volcanic activity.

 

              In 1992, Law 7293 was passed by the legislature4 (and two subsequent follow-up laws with the next 15 years) to firmly implant Costa Rica as a nation seeking to develop its tourism sector. In the past ten years the incentive push has been less than vigorous as the country still
dominates the tourism landscape in the Western Hemisphere.

As a comparator, Guatemala and Belize possess similar modern stability in urban centers and are now natural competitors to Costa Rica in the region. Since Guatemala frequently an has aberrant situation in terms of head-of-state turnover despite massive improvement in growth5, Belize is the recommended alternative for development or deployment of tourism capital in the region, has a stable government (less susceptible to spontaneous coups, given its history) and was more likely in the past to resolve even entrenched conflicts with diplomacy.6 Most importantly, it has a “close and cordial” relationship with the United States.7

Costa Rica, with such a vigorous tourism industry, begets vigorous local competition and seemingly bottomless foreign investment, and thus these alternatives are presented here for further investigation.

              The primary area of tourism for Costa Rica is ecotourism, with a small but burgeoning medical tourism milieu. As a stimulus for these processes, the Costa Rica is active in attracting tourism press and cultivates a relationship with major broadcast outlets with junkets.8 It has paid dividends, with arrivals expected to match half the current population if growth rates continue.

In 2001, 90% of native Costa Ricans had a positive view9 of the tourism industry and its contributions to the health of the economy and stability of the state. From 1996 onwards, Costa Rica has had a throughline motto of “No Artificial Ingredients”.10

              Costa Rica also benefits slightly from a bystander effect. Since the United States benefits the most financially from tourism in a raw monetary basis11 (with France topping the list for total arrivals, and the Chinese spending the most), Costa Rica’s proximity to the powerhouse allows an inevitable increases in tourism. Despite Costa Rica being the dead center of an orthographic projection of the world, most of the visitors are from the United States, with other Central American countries being a far second. Tourism represents about 5% of the GDP of Costa Rica, while the comparative number to the United States this number is 2.7%.12
Costa Rica also has nominal tourism from within its own borders and relies on these numbers for the bottom line. That being said, the per capita GDP of Ticos is about $12,000 USD13, so extravagance with internal tourism is uncommon. Contrast this to the United States, which facilitated about 600 billion dollars in domestic tourism14 (some of this obviously would be attributed to the sheer land mass).            

              The niches for ecotourism are largely preserved via state parks and other initiatives developed in the 1970s to combat the rapid deforestation. Costa Rica was estimated to be 99.8% forest pre-colonization, and in 1981 the coverage had been whittled down to 31%15. The majority of this reduction occurred post-1950. Up until this time the slash and burn agricultural system of Costa Rica was predicated on the Western Hemisphere’s general appetite for beef. Prior to colonial intercession into the rainforest, up to 99.98% of the landscape16 was classified as either rainforest or arable land.

              The development of ecotourism per se was serendipitous; Costa Rica had developed its National Park system partially due to the pressures of the academic elite or popular opinion. Costa Rica had its eye on tourism somewhat early for its development (1931) but the development of ecotourism was more organic. Incrementally, during the 1960s and 1970s, Costa Rica was the worldwide favorite for researchers to investigate biodiversity17. So while the treasures of the country were an open secret to enthusiast’s of nature’s beauty, the appeal had yet to reach the mainstream. In turn, these researchers brought institutes and funding before the 1980s, when the table was set for foreign investment.
Simply put, there was low supply and demand in terms of international tourists, especially from the United States. By 1990, only 4.5% of US citizens owned a passport.18 While US international tourism did not take off until the 1980s, Costa Rica had prepared for accommodations with tax-related legislation, called the Tourism Incentive Law.19 Costa Rica was one of the first countries in Latin America to do so, and the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua soon followed suit.

              In order to contextualize the current state of tourism in Costa Rica, the author of this paper decided to put his Qualtrics access to ample use. The author has no conflicting interests.

Respondents were recruited from a crowdsourcing site and were paid the recommended minimum wage for the United States. As the task was estimated to last 10 minutes, the prevailing price was 75 cents. Surveys were conducted via Qualtrics and passed through Copyscape. In order to substantiate the claims provided by research subjects, the workflow required an upload of a de-identified US Passport. The image of the passport was held server-side, so any breach directly involve a third-party (this service is used by many research institutions for Institutionally
Reviewed programs). Only 200 inputs are available of the data set and reflect common wisdom in the matter – people that visit Costa Rica like their experiences so much they tell other people.

Here is an example:


                        Why did you choose Costa Rica? “I visitted [sic] costa rica because a fishing buddy of mine told me it was cheap and the beaches were nice. You can see a doctor for $15 and the weather is beautiful”

                        Do you plan on going back? “Yes.”

                        Would you recommend to a friend? “Yes.”

              90 articles and connecting words were excluded from the data set (and the word “vacat ion”), with the highest frequency being “beach” (8), and 33 respondents completed the survey.
Five were excluded (1 IP discrepancy, 4 incorrect documents). These stop words were removed in Python from a heuristic developed by Turkel and Crymble.20 So overall, the sentiment expressed in longer-form surveys is expressed in a brief targeted sample (mainly older adults in the United States (forced geo-targeting), demographic information was not included to in the interest of time/pay rates for respondents.

              According to more robust qualitative analyses, tourists desire low prices, better in-country transportation and low-entrance fees for the main attractions. The pattern emerges of low-cost travel. Paradoxically, many of those reporting these desires have higher median incomes than their North American counterparts. These tourism requests are similar to native Costa Ricans, as they were surveyed in concert.21

              Both an increase of tourism and agriculture decrease indigence to a similar weight; the problem is magnified during the time periods in which Costa Rica lacks either of the two simultaneously. Now, the economy mostly focused on tourism has supplanted the jobs provided by subsistence agricultural economy. However, the flow of capital is not necessarily reversible if the tourism boon wanes.22 Costa Rican men are okay with tourism profits going towards foreign entities because it is an easier job than agricultural work23. Echoing the sentiment the present paper synthesized – ecotourism workers believe it is word of mouth having the most impact.
While the statistics bear out parity, the perception on the ground from employees in the working class exhibit a different picture. Ecotourism is widely perceived as the best available employment opportunity for the majority of respondents in a structured interview. In addition to entry-level opportunities, Costa Ricans strenuously believe they are empowered to start their own business within the service industry.24 Given the growth rate of 10% in 2016 (surpassing 3 million visitors per annum), this would take a worldwide catastrophic event like a global recession or 9/11 to reoccur. In fact, this is exactly what happened, travel went down that winter quarter 200125, but has risen every quarter measured since then.

              The source of funds for promoting tourism are derived from airport fees. Although this practice is not uncommon, the Costa Rican Ministry of Tourism has to balance this influx of cash with attracting new carriers that balk at the rate, a delicate proposition. This government entity collects $29 per person in exit fees alone (assuming 2/3rds leave yearly by air, at least $60 million USD yearly26) from its main airport in San Jose, not inclusive of the international airports now located in Liberia. The budget for tourism advertising per se is distributed in a competitive bidding process annually (or more frequently as requested by the board). While tourism is quite robust by air, those wishing to travel via the Pan American highway are presented with significant challenges, especially since Costa Rica is the penultimate destination on this thoroughfare, with several lengthy border checkpoints and restrictions on importation of cars and the requisite insurance.27
If one were to choose a singular factor in the development of tourism of Costa Rica, the answer would surprise many: higher education. The state-run public educational institutions aggressively recruited college exchange programs as early as the 1950s28, a rare phenomena for Latin America at the time. The sources for this reference are not diverse but the insight follows given that higher education would be reflective of global country improvement.

              Some critics pointedly suggest that ecotourism is simply a moniker for regular tourism,
and does not have much empirical basis.29 The most generous analyses do indicate qualitative tradeoffs, and suggest investment capital generated in other areas.30 A hypothetical scenario suggests an environmental equilibrium in select situations. For instance, a visitor’s trip to Costa Rica out of Miami for three weeks has a minimum impact on the environment, if they begin to live as the locals.31 This calculation is flawed for a myriad of reasons established throughout this paper and listed off the cuff: 1) they do not live as locals 2) locals do not travel as much to protected areas 3) only 1/5th of these visitors are from Florida, let alone Miami and 4) generally speaking, Americans spend 11 days not 3 weeks.

              “Costa Rica Ecotourism” is the dominant search term for Costa Rica-associated searches both worldwide and in the United States32. Low competition in the arena of Costa Rica tourism include “things to do in Costa Rica” as well as “places to visit in costa rica”, the cost being three times less than the keyword “costa rica adventure tours”. While the keyword “Costa Rica” and “Guatemala” demand similar advertising costs as of 2017, the difference comes to the fore when the keyword “tours” is added, making the cost difference about $4 per click. This means for every click of “Costa Rica Tour” costs the advertiser almost $6. The conversion rate for the travel industry is a bare minimum of 0.5%, with an upper threshold of 3%. “Costa Rica Holiday” is a low-cost target, because Americans tend to use the term “vacation” instead.

              One strategy is to attract big spenders and not the traditional college students looking for a budget on holiday. Common wisdom suggest these travelers are one-off and will travel on a budget, while adults in an older demographic will return multiple times. The average American tourist spends about $1000 per person, while each Chinese customer spends about $7,000 USD.33 Another potential tourist target with the term “holiday” is Europeans, as they spend on average 17 days in Costa Rica.34 China is on top of spending in other countries (particularly) the United States, even when ranking only fifth in arrivals.35

              While ecotourism literature dominates this paper, in reality it is a small portion of Costa Rica’s economy as a whole. In fact, both coffee and banana export alone are more important than the tourism sector.36 Because of the intrinsic stability of Costa Rica, it is the de facto intellectual paragon of Central America and as a result attracts human capital in the financial services and education sectors. 37

              Some of this may explain the rising costs of Costa Rica as a function of simple supply and demand, but the Costa Rican government attributes it to inflation and a high cost of petroleum. It is not unreasonable to suggest the premium traveling audience of Costa Rica requires premium goods and services. The inherent problem with the current model is that Costa Rica no longer has the monopoly on stability. While it is still widely regarded as the safest country to visit, the rising tide of every country offers a similar experience at a lower cost. In addition to supply and demand, Costa Rica has a more robust union system than other Central American nations38, and at least some of these costs are deferred to visitors.

              The best audience for targeting Costa Rica travel is elderly, educated Americans living in Florida. Floridians represent 16% of the United States population yet are 21% of the arrivals.39 82% of appropriate age visitors have college degrees or higher, with second-time visitors returning an average of eight times. As of 2017, the ideal advertising venue in the United States would have to be Facebook ads because of the demographic shift40 towards a higher-age demographic in the United States.

              Note a spike in Google Trends during the time period of university spring breaks or Easter.

              
It is imperative to note that it is difficult to keep a static line of people’s desires when they visit Costa Rica, some want to have a honeymoon or other less known sectors (sex tourism, medical tourism and technically illegal but perspicuous drug or party tourism). Like the talk about indigenous West African people’s from a male colonial perspective (for example, the allure of a bare-breasted woman in public41), the Costa Rican as observed to be more exotic and sexual than a European Caucasian.

                            Solidifying these perceptions are reports from Costa Rican tour guides as well as interviews of Costa Rican travelers.42 The original intent of the thesis was to ascertain if women visit Costa Rica for sex tourism or a slightly less racy analogy, pseudo-prostitution. The majority of the paper is a little informal – “He and Karla stayed out together and kissed for the first time that night. A couple of the women jokingly asked Francisco to take us to a motel and ‘give each of us a turn with him.”

                            While prostitution is legal in Costa Rica, and people do travel there for this purpose, it is not highly visible. In 2012, Costa Rica law made marketing and promoting this fact a law. An American ex-patriate was convicted (and had his later has his judgement vacated)43 of promoting sex tourism via his website.

                            The message was clear: the Costa Rican government wants to be perceived solely eco-tourism destination. The rationale could also be two-pronged – Costa Rica wants to attract big brands for factories and the white-collar employment they procure, and not just nameless investment groups for hotel development. The Institute of Tourism prefers a balance of tourists families and young single women, groups that would spend more and return, as described earlier. The other is to discourage the niche of child prostitution, as international reports have surfaced.44

                            In order to improve the agility of eco-tourism from cruise ships, the tourism bureau will need to find ways to get disembarked passengers to the profitable eco-tourist hotspots quickly. Costa Rica’s inability to keep up with modern highway systems in even the most traveled locales makes trips during disembarkation difficult. The ports available are not conducive to deep ecotourism, but passengers frequently do organized activities like canopy tours etc. But this represents about 6% of the total passengers on the ship with the remainder averaging about $30 on-shore expenditures.45 The port is in Puntarenas disembarks in an area akin to an airport, with souvenirs and restrooms. In a cost-benefit analysis, not much value exists spending money to attract cruise ship passengers – 33% of people do not leave the boat at all.46

                            The most reliable economic overview indicates protected forest in Costa Rica does have a net negative effect (lowering) on poverty levels around these zones.47 More specifically, the jobs provided by ecotourism in the surrounding locale would be matched by the equivalent resource extraction.48 Of course, the former is more sustainable in a vacuum, but ecotourism has some detrimental impact on the environment, and further more detailed reading is available been written attempting to reconcile these opposed interests.49 As a simple intuitive example, the widening of a highway to accommodate said tourist.
Costa Rica’s Ministry of Tourism can be a little on the disingenuous side when discussing its arrivals, given that any international arrival is as tourism, making data extraction tenuous (bulletins are also released in Spanish, not English). The International Medical Tourism Journal (IMTJ) has countered these numbers, saying they are logistically and arithmetically impossible given the amount of healthcare facilities in Costa Rica.50 Instead, it takes interview data from the clinics themselves. At first glance, one might wonder the motives behind IMTJ’s repudiation of these statistics. Are they a competing medical tourism organization? As far as research about the company is concerned, it appears they are interested in having accurate information to sell to other industries. Data here are vulnerable to a limitation of sources, which essentially amount to what Costa Rica’s Tourism Bureau says and almost nothing else, filtered through many variants of what amounts to a public relations release web sites.

                            One neglected niche in this paper is business tourism, as it does not represent a large portion of arrivals. Due to its tropical locale and accessibility, coupled with its modern amenities and safety, Costa Rica does present a unique opportunity for conferences and business travel. This niche has significant competition by Caribbean nations, located even more proximal to the United States; these nations rely almost entirely on tourism for their revenue. This travel represents about 1.2% of the Costa Rican GDP51. According to Knoema, Costa Rica is ranked 61st in business travel52, which is very close to its overall tourism and regulation friendly score. The data from this may not be subject to extrapolation, as the number one rank is a surprising Botswana.

                            Costa Rica clearly recognizes the massive benefits of tourism to its shores. The main thrust of their economic development includes keeping the tourism numbers at a stable growth rate and using that investment to attract other businesses as a safety net, and this hinges on foreign investment in other sectors, which is developing steadily but slowly. Costa Rica can afford to be a cradle of growth, and the eco-tourism sector allows it to be the most business friendly country in Costa Rica in terms of regulatory expedition.53

 


1  “The World Factbook — Central Intelligence Agency”. Accessed October 26, 2017.Cia.Gov. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/cs.html.

2  Ibid.

3  Ibid.

4  USA, International Business Publications. Costa Rica Company Laws and Regulations Handbook. Int’l Business Publications, 2008. p. 155

5  Heritage Foundation. Guatemala Economy: Population, GDP, Inflation, Business, Trade, FDI, Corruption”. 2017. Heritage.Org. Accessed November 12, 2017. http://www.heritage.org/index/country/guatemala.

6  U.S. Department of State.“Belize – Political Violence | Export.gov.” Accessed November 11, 2017. https://www.export.gov/article?id=Belize-Political-Violence.

7  U.S. Department of State. “Belize.” Accessed November 11, 2017. http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/1955.htm.

8  Press Trips – Instituto Costarricense De Turismo | ICT”. Accessed October 26, 2017. Ict.Go.Cr. http://www.ict.go.cr/en/institutional-services/press-trips.html.

9  Staley, Todd, and Katherine Stanley. 2017. “Costa Rica’s New Tourism Minister Talks About Marketing The Future”. Ticotimes.Net. Accessed October 26, 2017. http://www.ticotimes.net/2011/05/27/costa-rica-s-new-tourism-minister-talks-about-marketing-the-future.

10  “New Costa Rica Tourism Campaign Promotes ‘pura Vida’ in U.S.” Ticotimes.Net Accessed October 26, 2017. http://www.ticotimes.net/2011/01/28/new-costa-rica-tourism-campaign-promotes-pura-vida-in-u-s.

11  “International Tourism, Expenditures (Current US$) | Data”. Accessed October 26, 2017. Data.Worldbank.Org. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/ST.INT.XPND.CD.

12  “Travel, Tourism & Hospitality Industry Spotlight | SelectUSA.gov.” Accessed October 26, 2017. https://www.selectusa.gov/travel-tourism-and-hospitality-industry-united-states.

13  “Costa Rica | Data”. 2017. Data.Worldbank.Org. Accessed October 26, 2017.https://data.worldbank.org/country/costa-rica.

14  “News Release: U.S. Travel And Tourism Satellite Accounts”. Accessed October 26, 2017. Bea.Gov. https://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/industry/tourism/2010/tour310.htm.

15  “The Paradox Of Tourism In Costa Rica | Cultural Survival”. Accessed October 26, 2017. Culturalsurvival.Org. https://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/paradox-tourism-costa-rica.

16  Ibid.

17  Matarrita-Cascante, David. (2010). Tourism Development in Costa Rica: History and Trends. e-Review of Tourism Research. 8. 136-156.

18  Ibid.

19  Miller, Andrew P. Ecotourism Development in Costa Rica: The Search for Oro Verde. Lexington Books, 2012. p. 85.

20  Turkel, William J., and Adam Crymble. “From HTML to List of Words (part 2).” Programming Historian, July 17, 2012. Accessed November 12, 2017. https://programminghistorian.org/lessons/from-html-to-list-of-words-2.

21  Hearne, Robert R, and Zenia M Salinas. “The Use of Choice Experiments in the Analysis of Tourist Preferences for Ecotourism Development in Costa Rica.” Journal of Environmental Management 65, no. 2 (June 1, 2002): 153–63. doi:10.1006/jema.2001.0541.

22  Vanegas, Manuel, William Gartner, and Benjamin Senauer. “Tourism and Poverty Reduction: An Economic Sector Analysis for Costa Rica and Nicaragua.” Tourism Economics 21, no. 1 (February 1, 2015): 159–82. doi:10.5367/te.2014.0442.

23  Ibid.

24  Hunt, Carter A., William H. Durham, Laura Driscoll, and Martha Honey. “Can Ecotourism Deliver Real Economic, Social, and Environmental Benefits? A Study of the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica.” Journal of Sustainable Tourism 23, no. 3 (March 16, 2015): 339–57. doi:10.1080/09669582.2014.965176.

25  Ibid.

26  Fodor’s Travel Guide. Fodor’s Costa Rica. Fodor’s Travel, 2016. n.p.

27  Lopez, Jaime. “The Pros And Cons Of Importing A Car Into Costa Rica – Costa Rica Star News”. 2017. Costa Rica Star News. Accessed November 12, 2017. http://news.co.cr/importing-cars-costa-rica/2644/.

28  Hill, Carol. “The Paradox of Tourism in Costa Rica.” Cultural Survival Quarterly. March 1990. Accessed November 13, 2017. https://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/paradox-tourism-costa-rica.

29  Hunt, Carter A., William H. Durham, Laura Driscoll, and Martha Honey. “Can Ecotourism Deliver Real Economic, Social, and Environmental Benefits? A Study of the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica.” Journal of Sustainable Tourism 23, no. 3 (March 16, 2015): 339–57. https://doi.org/10.1080/09669582.2014.965176.

30  Koens, Jacobus Franciscus, Carel Dieperink, and Miriam Miranda. “Ecotourism as a Development Strategy: Experiences from Costa Rica.” Environment, Development and Sustainability 11, no. 6 (December 2009): 1225–37. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-009-9214-3.

31  LePree, Joshua. “Certifying sustainability: The efficacy of Costa Rica’s certification for sustainable tourism.” Florida Atlantic Comparative Studies Journal 11 (2008-2009), 57-78.

32  Google Trends.

33  Lopez, Jaime. “Chinese Tourists Spend More Than North Americans in Costa Rica.” The Costa Rica Star. 2017. Accessed November 12, 2017. http://news.co.cr/chinese-tourists-spend-more-than-north-americans-in-costa-rica/44119/.

34  “Statistics On European Tourism In Costa Rica – Centralamericadata :: The Regional Business Portal”. 2017. Centralamericadata.Com. Accessed November 12, 2017. https://www.centralamericadata.com/en/article/home/Statistics_on_European_Tourism_in_Costa_Rica.

35  Weihua, Chen. “Chinese Tourists Spend Most In US”. 2017. Usa.Chinadaily.Com.Cn. Accessed November 12, 2017. http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/us/2017-08/14/content_30586607.htm.

36  “Costa Rica | Location, Geography, People, Culture, Economy, & History”. 2017. Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed November 12, 2017. https://www.britannica.com/place/Costa-Rica.

37  Ibid.

38  US Department of State. “Costa Rica – 9.2-Labor Policies And Practices | Export.Gov”. 2017. Export.Gov. Accessed November 12, 2017. https://www.export.gov/article?id=Costa-Rica-labor-policies-and-practices.

39  “Tourism Statistics — Costarica-Information.Com”. 2017. Costarica-Information.Com. Accessed November 12, 2017. http://costarica-information.com/about-costa-rica/economy/economic-sectors-industries/tourism/tourism-statistics.

40  York, Alex. “Social Media Demographics to Inform a Better Segmentation Strategy,” March 6, 2017. Accessed November 12, 2017. https://sproutsocial.com/insights/new-social-media-demographics/.

41  Wallace-Sanders, Kimberly. Skin Deep, Spirit Strong: The Black Female Body in American Culture. University of Michigan Press, 2002.

42  Puccia, Ellen, “For neither love nor money: Gender, sexuality, and tourism in Costa Rica” (2009).Graduate Theses and Dissertations.  Accessed November 12, 2017.
http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/etd/2155

43  Anonymous. “David Strecker Aka “Cuba Dave” Wins Appeal, Says Website Bearing His Name”. 2017. Q Costa Rica. Access November 11, 2017. http://qcostarica.com/david-strecker-aka-cuba-dave-wins-appeal-says-website-bearing-his-name/.

44  Beyer, Nancy. The Sex Tourism Industry Spreads to Costa Rica and Honduras: Are These Countries Doing Enough to Protect Their Children From Sexual Exploitation? (2001). Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law. 29 no. 2, 301-333.

45  Brida, Juan, and Sandra Zapata-Aguirre. “Economic Impacts of Cruise Tourism: The Case of Costa Rica.” Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network, July 22, 2009. Accessed November 11, 2017. https://papers.ssrn.com/abstract=1437740.

46  Seidl, Andrew, Fiorella Giuliano, Lawrence Pratt, Rene Castro and Ana Maria Majano. “Cruise tourism and community economic development in Central. America and the Caribbean: The Case of Costa Rica.” (September 2005). The Latin American Center for Competitiveness and Sustainable Development (INCAE). Accessed November 13, 2017. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/40de/14e274bf13ca9aa20826acaba05bc2ac159e.pdf

47   Ferraro, Paul J., Merlin M. Hanauer, and Katharine R. E. Sims. “Conditions Associated with Protected Area Success in Conservation and Poverty Reduction.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108, no. 34 (August 23, 2011): 13913–18. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1011529108.

48  Hanauer, Merlin M., and Gustavo Canavire-Bacarreza. “Implications of Heterogeneous Impacts of Protected Areas on Deforestation and Poverty.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences 370, no. 1681 (November 5, 2015). https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2014.0272.

49  Büscher, Bram, and Veronica Davidov. The Ecotourism-Extraction Nexus: Political Economies and Rural Realities of (un)Comfortable Bedfellows. Routledge, 2013.

50  “Costa Rica Medical Tourism Numbers under Question | IMTJ.” Accessed November 13, 2017. https://www.imtj.com/news/costa-rica-medical-tourism-numbers-under-question/.

51  “Business Travel and Tourism Spending (%) by Countries, 2016 – Knoema.com.” Accessed November 13, 2017. https://knoema.com//atlas/topics/Tourism/Business-Travel-and-Tourism-Spending/Business-travel-and-tourism-spending-percent?baseRegion=CR.

52  Ibid.

53  World Bank. “Ease Of Doing Business Index (1=Most Business-Friendly Regulations) | Data”. 2017. Data.Worldbank.Org. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/IC.BUS.EASE.XQ?yaear_high_desc=false.

Rule By Terror

“The shoes, the belts, were piled two meters high and wide, you could see the traces of people that were killed there. They tied me up and left me sitting in their blood.”

 

– Tiburcio Utuy, Ixil victim at Rios Montt’s trial.1

               

              Rios Montt was the reigning dictator of Guatemala during the one of the bloodiest junctures of a decades long civil War. From 1981-1983, approximately 200,000 indigenous peoples were killed2. Montt was the last living leader from the Guatemalan Civil War’s heyday, and his subordinate general was found innocent of all the similar charges presented.3 According to an analysis of the Guatemalan tribunal, his killings of helpless villagers were more intense due to a perceived sense of superiority by the State4, possibly in terms of race.

              The impetus for this investigation was manifold, but centers around the execution of a request made to the United Nations, and a three-person panel assigned to summarize their findings for prosecution. Note that the entirety of the document created by the The Commission for Historical Clarification does not mention Montt, except during the timeline of the appendix. It states the heads of state, although technically separate from the military, were aware of the atrocities being committed.

              While Lucas Garcia, Montt’s predecessor, had focused on targeted assassination within cities (and was successful), the new president was focused on stamping out resistance outside of the walls — and much more effectively. 43% of all mortality occurred within the first nine               In addition to procedural gymnastics, Montt’s defense was that of “Show me the money.” Victory 82 and Firmness 83 (released just in the mid-2000s) were genocidal in practice but were much more vague, mostly focusing on verbiage regarding quelling the rebel threat and not overtly racist in the slightest. In summary, Montt was indicted mostly on eyewitness testimony and acquitted due to a procedural error regarding inadequate representation. In 2006, procedures by the Montt defense were successful at disallowing a Spanish judge from in person testimony. This was overturned and allowed, the primary factor in his conviction.5

              Despite frequent usage, detailed accounts do not suggest scorched earth per se. Rather, they exemplify internal terrorism, with the operating definition being “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.” The killings were simultaneously wanton and calculated, with what amounted to basically triaged torture, interrogation and public killing with designated bases or posts for the aforementioned.6

              The Rand Corporation offers a short apologetic on Guatemala’s oppressive tactics. Tidbits included the Guatemalan Army’s training from US Green Berets and the role the 1976 earthquake took on distracting said army from combat operations against guerillas.7 A newly-minted Jimmy Carter in Washington exponentially weakened that frailty, as he did not favor the authoritarian rule of Guatemala.8
The government’s objectives were essentially achieved by Montt’s terror spree. By the 1980s, rebels controlled almost half of Guatemala with only a maximum of 6,000 regulars, yet had the support of up to 500,000 citizens.9 After Victory 82? Effectively zero regulars. And the citizenry? They were desperate for peace and accepted the winners, despite their distaste for the state’s constant assassinations and lack of transparency. Without citation, the third act of the case study mentions the following: “COIN force [the Guatemalan state] collateral damage not perceived by population in area of conflict as worse than insurgents’”.10

              Naturally, criminal proceedings with regards to human rights violations are substantive. Despite the sturm and drang, Montt is a free man and will remain that way, and such an eventuality of justice is symoblic gesture. While powerful nations may view it as internal matter, it still very much raw for the Guatemalan populace. As an external observer it is easy to see how international financial support could offer a better chance of re-conviction. What is unclear is the benefit that would provide said powerful nation.

 

 


1  Brett, Roddy. The Origins and Dynamics of Genocide:: Political Violence in Guatemala. Springer, 2016. p. 6

2  Higonnet, Etelle. Quiet Genocide: Guatemala 1981-1983. Routledge, 2017. passim.

3  Sanford, Victoria. “Violence And Genocide In Guatemala | Genocide Studies Program”. 2017. Gsp.Yale.Edu. https://gsp.yale.edu/case-studies/guatemala/violence-and-genocide-guatemala.

4  Schmidt (ProPublica), Krista Kjellman. “Guatemala: Memory of Silence, The Commission for Historical…” Accessed November 8, 2017. https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/357870-guatemala-memory-of-silence-the-commission-for.html.

5  “Efrain Rios Montt & Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez.” Accessed November 8, 2017. https://www.ijmonitor.org/efrain-rios-montt-and-mauricio-rodriguez-sanchez-background/.

6  Brett, p. 136.

7  Paul, Christopher, Colin P. Clarke, Beth Grill, and Molly Dunigan. “Guatemala, 1960–1996: Case Outcome: COIN Win.” In Paths to Victory: Detailed Insurgency Case Studies, 134-46. RAND Corporation, 2013. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/j.ctt5hhsjk.22.

8  Ibid.

9  Ibid.

10  Ibid.

El Salvador Saliendo

              Much like the Central American nations discussed to this point, the 1980s was an eventful decade for El Salvador. The first source for this turbulence is “Aqui Estoy”, an ethnobiographical account about the civil wars in El Salvador from the perspective of a woman recruited to be a guerrilla. She was not able to fight on the front lines due to her eyesight, but was friends with well-trained women fighters. The end of the video is a recollection of being shot during Oscar Romero’s funeral.1 Romero was a priest who advocated for the poor and was assassinated in 1980. Nominally, he was not a liberation theologist like his future Jesuit counterparts, and the assassination was likely state-sanctioned or protected2.

              Roberto D’Aubuisson was blamed for and likely was one of the many middle-man involved in the death squad organization and requisite assassination. The 1989 El Salvador murder of four Jesuit priests and two others in the building was a leading news story in the United States. Jim McGovern talked about the discussions of US Congress at the time, and the brutality of the murders. This incident was one of the catalysts for international peace talks.5 Much like Panama’s invasion (and despite 75,000 total dead throughout the El Salvadorian civil war), US intervention efforts reached critical mass over this singular event.

The violence was tempered by the Chapultepec peace accords in 1992, which fully disarmed the rebel faction FMLN while reducing the grip of the Salvadorian government.6

              A vulnerable economy remained. Surpluses of unskilled labor caused a diaspora during the civil war, peaking between 1985 and 1990.7 If El Salvadorians were working in the fields for low pay at home, surely they could do it abroad for more money and send remittances. Thus, remittance are the savior of the economy, representing 15% of the gross domestic product in 2006.8 Indirect profits to banks are made from remittances, skimming from a patchwork of money transfer services, none of which hold more than 20% of market share.9 In addition to these electronic services, the majority state controlled airline reaps profits from viajeros, or entrepreneurs physically carrying the money into the United States.10

              Hecht and Saatchi note the visible reforestation may be correlated with the slow rebound of El Salvador’s stability. Note that Costa Rica had exceptionally pervasive deforestation finally quelled by the World Bank’s injection of capital to support other industries.11 This crisis occurred even in the absence of major conflict within its own borders, but concurrently with the El Salvadorian turmoil discussed here. Protecting the environment in has just recently been an area of focus for El Salvador. Even after conflict ended there, commercial fisherman were using explosives to easily catch their prey.12 The exceptive difference is modern El Salvador does not have much ancillary industry other than agricultural, while tourism and white collar business pick up the slack with Costa Rica.

            If the state were to develop a remittance service, they might get more profit, although the private sector may do this more efficiently. One wonders how this liberalization brings cash into the coffers of El Salvador, especially considering 60% of the workers their worked under the table in 2006.13


1  MAJOR Magazine. Aqui Estoy – Surviving The Civil War in El Salvador. Accessed October 25, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCwd7nWFRws.

2  “The Jesuits Massacre Case.” Accessed October 25, 2017. http://cja.org/what-we-do/litigation/the-jesuits-massacre-case/.

3 Gibb, Tom. “The Killing of Archbishop Oscar Romero Was One of the Most Notorious Crimes of the Cold War. Was the CIA to Blame?” The Guardian, March 23, 2000, sec. World news. http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2000/mar/23/features11.g21.

4  Chomsky, Noam. Turning the Tide: U.S. Intervention in Central America and the Struggle for Peace. Haymarket Books, 2015. p. 135.

5  Ignatian Solidarity Network. Congressman Jim McGovern on the Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador. Accessed October 25, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KD_uGo2xTkA.

6  Gammage, Sarah. “Exporting People and Recruiting Remittances: A Development Strategy for El Salvador?” Latin American Perspectives 33, no. 6 (2006): 75-100. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27647973.

7  Ibid.

8  Ibid.

9  Ibid.

10  Ibid.

11  Rosero-Bixby, Luis, and Alberto Palloni. “Population and Deforestation in Costa Rica.” Population and Environment 20, no. 2 (1998): 149–85. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27503631.

12  Nahill, Brad. “Protecting El Salvador’s Largest Wetland From the Bottom Up,” October 14, 2013. https://newswatch.nationalgeographic.org/2013/10/14/protecting-el-salvadors-largest-wetland-from-the-bottom-up/.

13  Gammage, 2006.

Red Central

Prior to US intervention in Guatemala, neo-liberal policies were proliferating during the 1940s, popular reforms braced by Guatemalan people. In response to this phenomena, the United Fruit Company began a successful lobby of the US government to crackdown on today’s “terrorism”, or communist sympathizers [1] . What is clear throughout the literature is that the Civil War was due to classic Banana Republic actions. What is not immediately clear is why either faction was unable to win the conflict over the period of 40 years. Part of this may be to the comparatively small scale of operations — the United States wanted first class results from a bare-bones investment, with “large-scale” operations having less than 500 people involved. [2]

The Catholic elite investigated the genocide ostensibly because it was an organized entity without fear of reprisal; that fear had diminished since the 1980s. From Peacemaking, this desire is based on “God’s will to repair the world through taking its sin upon himself”. [3] Due to the respect and dominance of the church in the region, it has a far larger impact than its dioceses in Eastern Europe with regards to genocide. Guatemala is one of the few exceptions were Catholic investigation was helpful at attracting worldwide attention.

Genocide is common enough that I rarely see it used incorrectly or in an exaggerative manner. Genocide did not occur in Guatemala semantically but words evolve over time to possibly integrate the usage here to include “collateral damage”. Clue used to mean ball of yarn, after all. One has to look at the etymology of the word “genocide” to decide. It means elimination of “gen” by “cide”, or essentially elimination of a race by killing. It does not factor in the rationale of these deaths. This was the argument of Guatemala’s far right. An international commission’s rebuttal was the race here was actually an economic class

Like homicide, the rationale can affect the punishment, but it is materially still killing, and is interesting why of diverting death of individuals into a lexical exercise.

Panamaniacs

Manuel Noriega was Panamanian dictator who was the ultimate middleman of drugs, being both a physical intermediary. He was a general during Torrijos’ reign until the latter’s death in 1981, and became leader of the Panama Defense Forces in 1983.1 Noriega was protected by both the canal’s interests and his tacit support of Contra activity in neighboring Nicaragua during the 1980s. In turn, the Central Intelligence Agency determined him an asset and looked the other way in terms of his involvement in smuggling.

While US sanctions deteriorated the economy and savaged the average Panamanian citizen, Noriega survived under a shadow economy, his pockets lined with the drug money from US insatiable appetite for cocaine.2 After the US supported repeated failed coups by to Panama Defense Force underlings, Noriega was deposed by swift military intervention called Operation Just Cause.

Rosenberg3 aggregates the three given U.S. common wisdom rationales as to why the occurred, but one notable exclusion exists. In an unheralded masterpiece, Cramer4 dissects the intervention as strictly diversionary warfare. The untrained eye is a double-edged sword, but even prior to reading this takedown, a creeping feeling of agent provocateurs existed throughout the text of the official account. The critical impetus for invasion was US officers violating a roadblock of Panamanian forces, leading to the shooting death of a Lt. Paz.5

What was not listed in the account (but by Cramer) is that during the shooting, multiple provocations were being carried out in concert. The official account is the car’s occupants were going to a meal at the Marriott in Panama City. Perhaps they were tired of being harassed by said checkpoints and decided to ignore it despite imminent threat.
However, in less than 12 hours, the President was recommended to exercise one of four plans already in the hopper, called Blue Spoon.
6 Not surprisingly, the official version of the decision-making process is riddled with the word “Cheney”at particularly critical junctures.

Panama, like Belize, does not have a rich historical vein to mine from a bilateral-US perspective until 1903, when the Hay–Bunau-Varilla Treaty was signed. This machination yielded a small portion of the canal land to the United States, rebuffing Colombia after settling accounts with the French.7 The floodgate of bounty did not necessarily open to Panama proper, largely boxed out of such windfalls. Many of the lavish investments were on American-controlled territory after all. The United States remained in control of the canal until the Carter–Torrijos treaty, sun-downing the ownership at 1999.8
The requisite story of the Panama Canal Treaty is a winding yarn; this is partially due to the complexities within Carter’s foreign policy itself and the extant hegemony existing within the State Department’s old guard and Carter’s appointees.
9 If Operation Just Cause was a diversionary war, the secession of the Panama Canal was a diversionary treaty. Carter’s worldview was still smarting from Vietnam, and he may have felt continued presence an over-extension of the US into foreign soil— perhaps the Panama canal was a token target to temper these feelings.

The canal was a symbol of a time when the US dominated worldwide mercantile exchange. Republicans, maybe correctly, took the treaty as an opportunity to create a wedge issue against the Democrat Carter for the 1980 Presidential campaign. The modern history of the “driving a wedge” was developed less than 10 years earlier as a codified political strategy. Nixon and his braintrust developed it to attract opposition voters opposed to busing-based desegregation in schools.10

While modern wedge issues may have direct impact (especially anecdotally) on the American citizens daily life viz. abortion, immigration, stem cell research; the Panama Canal treaty opposition movement was particularly genius because affected almost no one in any aspect of American society. Further, this implementing this plan would have no remarkable downside to its initiators.

As it has been shown, the relationship between Panama and the United States coalesces around two decades, the 1900s and the 1980s. The majority of bilateral relations here appear to be otherwise uneventful, especially when taken from a holistic worldwide foreign policy perspective. Noriega was charged, deported and then repatriated to Panama to serve his prison term before dying in 2017.

1 Archibold, Randal. 2017. “Manuel Noriega, Dictator Ousted By U.S. In Panama, Dies At 83”. Nytimes.Com. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/30/world/americas/manuel-antonio-noriega-dead-panama.html?mtrref=en.wikipedia.org&gwh=5436BDBDC86582DA034CEFC5BDA40E82&gwt=pay.

2 Gilboa, Eytan. “The Panama Invasion Revisited: Lessons for the Use of Force in the Post Cold War Era.” Political Science Quarterly 110, no. 4 (1995): 539-62. doi:10.2307/2151883.

3 “Panama and Noriega: Our SOB. Scott Rosenberg – PDF.” Accessed October 15, 2017. http://docplayer.net/26026700-Panama-and-noriega-our-sob-scott-rosenberg.html.

4 Cramer, Jane Kellett. “‘Just Cause’ or Just Politics?: U.S. Panama Invasion and Standardizing Qualitative Tests for Diversionary War.” Armed Forces & Society 32, no. 2 (January 1, 2006): 178–201. https://doi.org/10.1177/0095327X05277899.

5 “Operation JUST CAUSE”. 2017. History.Army.Mil. https://history.army.mil/html/documents/Panama/JC.html.

6 Operation Jus

Panamaniacst Cause.

7 “BBC News – Timeline: Panama”. 2017. News.Bbc.Co.Uk. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/country_profiles/1229333.stm.

8 Zaretsky, Natasha. “Restraint or Retreat? The Debate over the Panama Canal Treaties and U.S. Nationalism after Vietnam*: Restraint or Retreat?” Diplomatic History 35, no. 3 (June 2011): 535–62. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7709.2011.00962.x.

9 Ibid.

10 McMahon, Kevin J. Nixon’s Court: His Challenge to Judicial Liberalism and Its Political Consequences. University of Chicago Press, 2011. np. “The President [Nixon] also made it clear to Chief Justice Burger that he preferred that the court not issue a major busing decision in the fall of 1972.”

Apache Slavery

The three causes for the proliferation of slavery by Spain against the Apaches and associated tribes includes delay, undercompensation and unenforceabilty. Delay refers to the physical delay of the Queen’s wishes to the New World, which may have taken a calendar year to receive let alone enforce or implement. Second, life on the frontier was harsh for the Spanish pioneers and the extra money from the slave trade made it slightly more worth it. Lastly, the pragmatic ideals of Queen Isabella were not practical from the perspective of leaders in the region, and were lip serviced but de facto ignored.

The slavery framework appears to be a balance of kinship and chattel. Spaniard captives were more integrated into tribes, but were generally bought and sold just like the Spaniards operated the principles of chattel on Native Americans. Hereditary slavery is not discussed, but the examination of this period was too small to draw a definitive conclusion. Slaves were not natally alienated by the Spanish until the mid-18th century which violated the old-school encomienda. This was out of rare fear instead of labor imbalance. The West Indies had extremely high slave to freemen ratios that fostered rebellion and eventually came very dangerous for the plantation management.

I wonder what the ratios were in New Mexico.

In one sense, religion acted as a carrot for the Native American to a better life. It also offered a rationalization for a servant of God to just be an indentured servant for God. The threat of enslavement was used from a position of leverage, and skirmishes were initiated by Spaniards as agent provocateurs to generate war captives for enslavement, sometimes via backroom deals to more powerful tribes. Many years after Cerrato, priests in the New Mexico region were bent on purchasing slaves despite the theoretical legal ramifications.

The presence of a foreign power on the Natives’ soil may have caused additional hardship, which caused additional and unforeseen debt, requiring otherwise solvent tribe-members to sell family members into catechism. Parallels to the drug trade exist, discussed elsewhere. Ultimately, the goal was colonization or increase of Christians for Queen Isabella (just like the reduction of communism or increase of capitalism for the Contras in Nicaragua etc.). Slavery, like cocaine, was just too profitable to not get a cut, especially considering the triumvirate of problems first mentioned in this discussion.

Cuervo and Morgollon issued writs allegedly making the practice more illegal, but a crisis was brewing. The other tribes in the west were consolidating and becoming more powerful, and a threat to land. Slavery came second to survival, until an accidental detente was reached. Please correct me if I am wrong, but essentially the Spanish and Comanches / Utes reached a power equilibrium during the mid-18th century. Slaves that were caught were sent elsewhere in the Spanish kingdom, namely Mexico.

Why do women study abroad more?

On average, because their parents are more inclined to finance this endeavour.

I sought to figure out the question why girls are more likely to study abroad than guys. I did this on my own volition, I reminded myself tacitly, after reading a doctoral thesis, and three journal articles about a topic I care so very little about, and one with no impact on my daily life and an extremely low percentage of the world’s population (and college students, too, given that ~1% follow through with it).

The obvious answers pervasive throughout literature is that it is major-specific, more women are in the languages and have classes more amenable to international transfer.

But why? Like why why.

– To increase mate availability. I do not see evidence this is the case, but how do you frame a study that says “Do you go overseas to meet hot French guys?” Self-report measures of this question would be unreliable, and actual data impossible.

This runs contrary to subjects being attracted to people that look and feel like them (narcissism dating theory). I wonder if the reported self-confidence improvement from traveling abroad would decrease that. There is also some currency being American, except in Western countries. Self-esteem among interracial daters appears to have similar to similar to other populations. The self-report of “sexy” accents is contravened by literature , maybe I will get to that later.

– As a marker or consequence of class.

– Because traveling abroad with a group is safer vs. privately. This issue was not addressed at length. Men still travel abroad at a similar rate, but outside of a college setting. It’s probably more cost-effective.

The raw data indicates that parents are more likely to support their daughter’s desires to go abroad. This can be construed as either “emotional” support, but what it probably means is “financial” support. At this point, if you are a researcher in the field, you are most likely saying money is not really a factor. Then, remember the caveat it is based on the students report of their parents income. I mean, adults do not even know their own parents income, and 45% of millionaires not viewing themselves as wealthy.

On the whole, maybe female college students traveling abroad have no idea how much money their parents make… nor do most students. The deepest stretch in a series of stretches is that male students are better able to guess their parent’s financial status.

Why do women find accents sexy?

A few easy answers spring to mind – to increase genetic drift for their offspring. This is most likely not true – people often look to in-group but not too in-group mating.

But women do find accents sexy, by self-report. But here is the gentle correction: women find native English or Romantic-language accents sexy. Save for this exception, people like an accent that sounds like them. 

I had been poring over the internet looking for the metrics of interracial dating and low-self esteem. Granted, hooking up with someone from England is not interracial, unless they’re from the West End, if you know what I mean*. I mostly encountered a ubiquitous survey on perceptions of interracial dating that asked the loaded question: do you believe interracial daters have low self-esteem? That question, if I had never pondered it before, would take me at least five minutes to answer in binary format.

They probably do have lower self-esteem. Why is that question put in a textbook then?

Heathen millennials tell Pew Research Center they do not care much about the dangers of race mixing.

This reminds me of the situation where women like “masculine” men when they are ovulating, and “baby-faced” men when they are not. Accents are dangerous like tattoos are dangerous, he spent $300 sitting in a chair while another man drew an octopus on his body. Oh yeah, baby the incredibly slight risk of increased hepatitis C, too. The tattoo guy not the British guy. The latter needs Vitamin C. 

As we go on, we remember a British accent imparts a sense of novelty to the listener that increases activation of D2 areas, and those are co-located with sexual endeavors, thus accents are sexy. But it is a sense of novelty and danger with almost no-reproductive downside – the only difference between a Brit and a guy from Long Island is a lot of differences, but you get the idea.

If you have ever seen an interview of London anarchists punks, these individuals sound like professors and look like London anarchist punks.

Hard to buy a mousetrap in Guatemala

The more deep you went into it, the more you realized it was the same as the beginning. A girl no more than six was selling flowers – and her indigenous ancestry made her look much younger – she could barely stand over the weight of the bouquet. She was a mixture of terrified and sleepy, probably riding the bus several hours to sell. I knew I had been played – someone sending their child out to sell flowers, most of which were on their death’s bed. I put 5 qs in her hand and she snapped out of a trance, reaching for one stem and missing like a boxer knocked out, pawing on the ground. I told her “Por favor, ten cuidado hoy”. What words of wisdom from a genius, what an ominous and creepy thing to say. What is there to say?

It was 100 degrees Farenheit and I had run out of water. I decided to steal my companions, a correctly surly and powerful Mexican, being about 5’6 and 220.

I was looking for a candle to burn at night, but the next too-young-to-be-working in a shop in a brick and mortar tienda didn’t speak Spanish either — “candela” “encendedor” “quema”, I took out my ramen noodles and lit an imaginary flame under them, to which she responded with five fingers splayed, which either meant five quetzales or “please stop doing that”. A hulk of a man appeared behind me in a manner that either suggested he wanted to purchase something as well, or that he was going to kill me.

A woman on her first trip outside of the country, stout, with a better phone than me and in her Sunday best, her wallpaper a heavily photoshopped version of herself and TSA pre-check asking me to translate the post-flight instructions, given from not a flight attendant, but what appeared to be a random man with both a perilous grasp of the English language and intense fear of public speaking, whose tone of voice was similar to being encircled by a chorus of colicky children in full diapers.

Trying to be helpful and failing, I tenuously explained the concept of customs before I was interrupted by an Asian woman with better English and Spanish than I. It was only shameful because she was not fluent. I was not listening at all to the man, so I was translating words I did not ever listen to. And being a true Guatemalan now, I attempted to help anyways.

Long flight, blue eyes, blonde hair, no coffee, surrounded by an international potporrui of polygots, and me? Que lastima.

I circled back around, passing a man with gas gangrene on his left leg – sprawled in the traditional manner of head down / hands up of the indigenous elderly, his former ambulator sprawled like a roadkill crab to reveal an insidious combination of both diabetic infirmary or a fulminating staphylococcus infection. He was in dire need of an amputation, and was ill in a manner that suggested he would shuffle the cosmic deck promptly. I wondered if it was a calculated decision, insofar as revenue was concerened, given that a clinic would be like “Yeah, we are going to cut that off. Start counting back from 100.”

I hit on two Taiwanese girls. I assumed they knew each other, but they did not. I did it as a favor to my friend, one he did not ask for nor need. These girls were pros, like south side prostitutes in their heyday, insasmuch as they were running a tandem clinic on pretending to be interested — the older one on what to do, and the younger one on not to do. In return, lodging and food for free with a nod and a smile but paying for it in spades by having to talk with us. They were clearly uncomfortable the advance, as was I, and communicated this by having an iPhone for each finger.

“Are you drunk?” one of them asked me.

L’esprit de l’escalier, I’d need to be.

I wasn’t, and I slinked back to my room.

I was bitten by a mouse. The gentle nip of a mosquito coupled with the faint brush of a lucky rabbit’s foot lending its unsolicited strokes to my lower back. The all night “tsst tsst tsst tsssssssssssssst” of a rodent slithering through your bed. The incisions must have nicked a heavy capillary tree and I bled for 24 hours straight, straight through to the mattress, and then onto the next night. I had seen it for a few days but did not want to embarrass my lovely host, and realized I had left it shut in a room without food for that duration. Just wanted a snack.

I later learned the Taiwanese non-twins were stone cold famous – paid to travel the world, married even, to each other. I sat tacitly, cowed by my once-in-a-lifetime attempt to have a conversation with strangers. They cooked us dinner and it was really good.