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Culture and Society in Costa Rica

Modern Languages Program

ESCUELA DE LA TIERRA ( School of the Earth)
International Programs

Code: CS5000
Level: Undergraduate
Nature: Theoretical
Type: Intensive Summer Session
Credits: 4 
Modality: 3 intensive weeks
Weekly hours: 20 / 3 weeks
Attending hours: mon-tues: 6 hrs each; wed-thurs: 4 hrs each 
Independent study: 19 per week
Prerequisite: None

Eduardo E. Saxe Fernandez
Bryan Gonzalez Hernandez
Guadalupe Urbina

1. Course Description:

This class introduces the undergraduate student to Costa Rica´s cultural characteristics, tendencies, products and authors. Several topics are considered, including: The ways to understand cultures; Costa Rica’s Southern Pacific geographical and social characteristics; Native heritages and current struggles; Voices and lives of migrants; and Explorations of local and regional cultural creativity. Interviews with artists, artisans and are included, and field trips (walking) to the petroglyphs and the biological reserve around Longo Mai.

This class has been designed for undergraduate students coming from any discipline or professional advocacy. This course meets multicultural graduation requirement.

2. General Educational Goals:
At the end of this class, the student will be able
  • To know and understand current relevant characteristics and issues in Costa Rica’s culture (emphasis on the South Pacific region);
  • To obtain a coherent and meaningful analysis of such characteristics and issues, understanding them as cultural creations;
  • To learn and experience first-hand Costa Rica’s cultures on their own terms, conditions and characteristics.
3. Evaluation:

 Participation during the class15
 Individual researches15
 for weekly group presentations15
 Weekly exam (2)
 Final exam 15
 Critical reports about the films/videos20

4. Methodology:

The students prepare each class, reading the assigned bibliography, watching the assigned films/videos, writing to summarize and to criticize, as well as exploring using additional personal, social, library or internet resources.
The class includes activities where the students interact with cultural actors.
The students share their individual cultural explorations in class and other media.
During class time, the faculty and groups of students introduce the thematic components to be discussed collectively. These also organize the discussion and produce a general summary of the day.
The critical reports on the films are also presented and discussed in class
The weekly exam helps in synthesizing the four days’ learning.
The final exam takes the form of an essay-in-class, where each student writes an essay about two of the four topics proposed (200 words each).
Presentations by guests speakers and visits with cultural actors allow the student to experience culture first hand.

5. Educational resources:
Each student needs a computer or telephone with access to internet, during and after class time. The class has an internet site with resources and interactions. Faculty and assistants provide extra-class support to the students. Universidad Castro Carazo and Escuela de la Tierra have additional faculty and graduate students willing to help you. Computing and additional bibliographical resources are also available. 

Students read selections from:
  • Michael Minkov (2013) Cross-Cultural Analysis: The Science and Art of Comparing the World´s Modern Societies and Their Cultures. SAGE.
  • Mavis Hiltunen Biesanz, et al (1999) The Ticos. Culture and Social Change in Costa Rica. Boulder, London: Lynne Rienner.
  • Bridget A. Hayden (2003) Salvadorians in Costa Rica. The University of Arizona Press.
  • Gabriel García Márquez (1999) Collected Stories. NY: Harper-Perennial Classics.
Students watch and report on the following films/videos:
  • Ken Herft Jr. The Hidden People.
  • Documentary Costa Rica. Ditsowo Tsirik –The Way of the Seed-Bribri.
  • Vice News. Poaching, Drugs and Murder in Costa Rica: Shell Game.
  • ColdWarWarriors. El Salvador in the 1980s
  • Cordaid. Youth Gangs in El Salvador- Marked for life.
  • Vimeo. Nicaraguan Coffee Migrants in Costa Rica.

6. Schedule of Activities:

 WEEK Activities and Topics (general description)
 WEEK 1 
  • Introduction to the course
  • Class organization
  • Approaching Costa Rica: culture and society
  • Southern Pacific Region and Valley
  • Local social and cultural characteristics
  • Two waves of Salvadorian migrants escaping violence
  • Indigenous heritages and contemporary struggles
  • Field trip to the local eco-archaeological area (petrogliphs).
  • Local and regional cultural creations.
  • Presentations and visits with artists and artisans