Culture and Customs of Costa Rica

Culture and Customs of Costa Rica

Culture and Customs of Costa Rica

Culture and Customs of Costa Rica

Synopsis

Costa Rica, the spectacularly beautiful Latin American nation, stands out from its neighbors in its political climate, economic stability, and social progressiveness. Culture and Customs of Costa Rica is a superlative introduction to the modern Costa Rica, which Costa Ricans compare in many ways to the United States. Helmuth, who spent her formative years in Costa Rica, provides an outstanding overview of this unusual and dynamic nation's place in Latin America. Featured topics include Costa Rica's: BL Legacy of social reform BL Religion BL Social customs BL Media BL Literature BL Art and the performing arts. Written with the highest scholarly standards, but easily accessible to students and general readers, this well-written source goes far beyond the travel guide fare in providing in-depth information on this fascinating country.

Excerpt

"CULTURE" is a problematic word. In everyday language we tend to use it in at least two senses. On the one hand, we speak of cultured people and places full of culture, uses that imply a knowledge or presence of certain forms of behavior or of artistic expression that are socially prestigious. In this sense large cities and prosperous people tend to be seen as the most cultured. On the other hand, there is an interpretation of "culture" that is broader and more anthropological; culture in this broader sense refers to whatever traditions, beliefs, customs, and creative activities characterize a given community--in short, it refers to what makes that community different from others. In this second sense, everyone has culture; indeed, it is impossible to be without culture.

The problems associated with the idea of culture have been exacerbated in recent years by two trends: less respectful use of language and a greater blurring of cultural differences. Nowadays, "culture" often means little more than behavior, attitude, or atmosphere. We hear about the culture of the boardroom, of the football team, of the marketplace; there are books with titles like The Culture of War byRichard Gabriel (Greenwood, 1990) or The Culture of Narcissism byChristopher Lasch (1979). In fact, as Christopher Clausen points out in a recent article published in the American Scholar (Summer 1996), we have gotten ourselves into trouble by using the term so sloppily.

People who study culture generally assume that culture (in the anthropological sense) is learned, not genetically determined. Another general assumption made in these days of multiculturalism has been that cultural differences should be respected rather than put under pressure to change. But these as-

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