Costa Rica achieved independence on September 15th, 1821; 195 years ago this year.
Costa Ricans did not have to “fight” for their independence. Instead, it was declared by officials in Guatemala after the defeat of Spain in the Mexican War of Independence. Guatemalan officials declared independence for all of Central America.
Currently, Costa Rica’s population is numbered at 4.3 million approximately. 83.6% are considered white or mestizo, 6.7% are considered mulatto, 2.4% Native American and 1.1% are Black or Afro Caribbean.
Do you know what the etymology and genesis of the word mulatto is?
The word mulatto pops up during the enlightenment era. Philosophers were trying to figure out if blacks were a part of the Christian aka White creation story of Adam and Eve or if blacks came from another racial species. Thanks to the best book in the world, Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi, we find out that,
“If Blacks and Whites were separate species, then their offspring would be infertile. And so the word mulatto, which came from “mule,” came into being, because mules were the infertile offspring of horses and donkeys.”
Blacks in Costa Rica find their genesis in two places. While the first insertion of blacks happened because of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, another wave of Black migration came from Jamaica in the 19th century, lured by work in building railroads and remained working in agriculture.
Making up such a small percentage in Costa Rican culture, one must wonder how have Afro Costa Ricans fared since the voluntary migration of the 19th century?
Epsy Campbell Barr, who was featured in the above piece, is one of the many Afro Caribbean Costa Ricans who are fighting for fair representation in their country. She ran for President of Costa Rica, twice and has been the head of the Center for Women of African Descent, the Alliance of Leaders of African descent in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Black Parliament of the Americas.
Epsy Cambell Barr will never be featured in our textbooks. She will never be seen as a modern day freedom fighter and liberator. As a matter of fact, as I prepared for this piece on Costa Rica I looked into the index of one of my state sponsored textbooks. I found 3 notations on Costa Rica, all of them reference the Mexican War of independence and mention Costa Rica in passing.
But we can highlight her, not only during Hispanic Heritage Month, Black History Month and Women’s History Month but we can embed Campbell-Barr and the liberatory work that we do in our every day instruction.
As we look for ways to embed contemporary revolutionaries into the hearts and minds of our young people, we have to first know that these people exist. The thing is, they do, and it is up to us to find them.
You can count on CREAD to continue to shine light on all of our diasporic comrades.
Let me hit you with one more thing thing about Costa Rica. There has been a robust repatriation and migration of Afro Caribbean and Afro American Blacks to Costa Rica in the last couple of years.
One such family who did this, explained their reason to Essence Magazine a few years ago. And if you want to learn more about Costa Rica and experiencing it from an African Diasporic perspective, check out Duende Natural.
“The Duende Natural Group is about creating a sustainable land project with lush bio diverse Costa Rica as its backdrop. It is founded by a group of friends and families from Brooklyn, NY, whose aim is to build and create a resilient future for ourselves and the community developing the land into a rustic Eco-resort providing a place for travelers and local folks to share and learn from each other on how to live lightly on Planet Earth and reconnect with nature.
This will be accomplished through acquiring land to build a rustic and earth friendly eco-resort that will be used to facilitate adventure and cultural tours. We will also have planned adventure/culture tours.”
Deep thinkers only!