Letter FromnCosta Ricanby Geoffrey WagnernAmerica in Spanish?nAmerican Airlines flies you down tonSan Jose daily, all announcements innEnglish. Indeed, almost everyone in thenCosta Rican capital seems able to speaknexcellent English, prompting the ironynof local kids all studying the languagenhard, to be impeded from practicing itnshould they reach compulsorily bilingualnschools in America. As a matter ofnfact, on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast,nor Wild East as it has been called, anJamaican patois still exists, relic of pastnimportations from the British West Indies.nPayment in dollars is ubiquitous.nThe day’s Miami Herald lies on one’snbreakfast table and Dan Rather’s latestntoupee invades one’s evening room.nCNN runs around the clock and LarrynKing comes on earlier than Stateside.nHotel Cable Cuide introduces one tonDonald Duck, Danahue, Whell ofnFortune, and Cober Girl (all sic). It isnhardly Costa Rica’s fault that it’s impossiblento close one’s eyes and earsntoday to the Pax Americana. The recentntourist influx is almost entirelynAmerican, but in the Northeast Incrossed via the Puntarenas ferry to thenNicoyan peninsula and saw not a singlentourist, either on the ferry or in thenthree remotely placed hotels I visitednthere.nIn any case, there is no evidence thatnCosta Ricans want to change thenstance symbolized by Oscar Arias, whonleft office hailed as a moral beacon,narchitect of a peace plan signed bynHonduras, El Salvador, Guatemala,nand Nicaragua, in all of which therenare bellicose antidemocratic elements.n”In Europe they’re shooting dictators,”nArias is reported to have said.n”Here we’re trying to replace themnthrough elections.”nBordering Nicaragua, Costa Ricanhas been living on the lip of one of thenmost brutal Marxist dictatorships of thenCORRESPONDENCEnregion, one that may not have playednitself out as yet. Everything about thencountry, from its charming capital to itsnblack enclaves, seems to suggest: wenare part of Western culture and wish tonremain so. We are on the side of allnthat Jesse Jackson wants to tear down.nThere are no Aztec or Mayan remains,nno sense of an Indian terror-past tontake forward revolutionary pretensions,nas in Mexico. For the native originalsn— the Borucas and Corobicis — do notnseem to have been as brutal as theirnCarib colleagues, and Columbus,nwhen he landed in 1502, establishednfriendly relations with the indigenes; atnleast Spanish subjugations appear tonhave been relatively benign, since theynregarded the place as an impoverishednbackwater, and the first governor Spainnappointed, Juan Vasquez de Coronado,nestablished what has been termednthe most humane colonization in thenregion. So there are no Diego Riveranmurals around, nor museums full ofnslave chains, and Costa Rica has nowncreated an international presence as ansturdy democracy, a model to its neighborsnwho send across their criminalsnand politicos. Floreat.nThe result has been that Americansnare flocking to this prosperous touristnhaven and retirement center. Thencountry’s spread of protected wildlifenparks, and official emphasis on ecology,nhave coincided with American interestsnand brought in a Mom-and-Popntourism of the better kind. I was repeatedlynin awe of the tenacity of ournsenior citizens on such tours, up at 5nA.M. to follow rare bird and animalntrails, to bed down later in some primitivenjungle lodge for more of the samenin an open boat the next morning.nAfter some turtle watching at Tortuguero,nnot far from the Nicaraguannborder, I said goodbye to an Americannlady of nearly 80 who was spurning thennormal mode of access to the park, bynPiper plane, and taking an eight-hournride down to Limon in a boat like thenAfrican Queen. I was brought up tonrespect British travelers of this ilk, fromnFreya Stark to Rose Macaulay (whononce waded round the border intonnnYugoslavia); Aldous Huxley’s treksnacross Guatemala showed extraordinarynfortitude in a half-blind man,nwhile Evelyn Waugh’s penurious journeynon horseback from Iquitos downnthe banks of the Amazon amazes mentoday. But possibly the scepter hasnpassed to America in this domain.nMore than one septugenarian Mrs.nFront Porch I met went on four suchngrueling tours a year.nAs for retirees, so valuable to anrestricted economy, Costa Rica hasncaptured ours in abundance thanks notnonly to political and social stability, butnalso to the high standards of medicalnand dental services, so vital to thenoldster. I suspect it is not widely knownnthat American union and pensionngroups and the like constantly case out,nvia scouting committees, foreign countriesnas well as our own States for theirncongeniality to retirees (costs, services,nsympathies). My own union has morenthan one such Chapter, reporting regularly.nIn these rankings Costa Ricanhas been rated high, taking the place ofnMexico in the past. After all, ecology isnapolitical, or should be. It attracts thenhippie and the oldster alike. ThenGreens know no age groups, nornshades.nBut, basically, Costa Rica’s glory liesnin its national parks, their jungles andnwaterways. The wildlife to be seen isngenerally small — I never met anyonenwho had seen the vaunted local jaguarn— but no less treasured for that. Monkeysnabound, as do iguana and armadillon(called tatou in the West Indiesnwhere, to my shame, I have eaten allnthree). It will be a sad day if thesencenters spawn protection for anothernsort of animal, the drug addict andngender traitor. It has happened atnPanajachel, which has disfigured thenglorious shore of Guatemala’s LakenAtiflan, and near Quepos, on CostanRica’s Pacific Coast, the magnificentnbeaches of the Manuel Antonio NationalnPark seem to have attracted thenmore boorish and contemptuous of ournhomosexuals, bisexuals, and trisexualsn(as in I’ll Try Anything). Visit thenfamed Mariposa hotel in the vicinitynFEBRUARY 1991/39n