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"Like it or not, here we are" : exploring xenophobia towards Nicaraguan immigrants in Costa Rica. de Regil, Ashley


In recent decades, Costa Rica has experienced an increasing number of Nicaraguan immigrants who have come to the country seeking political refuge, work, education or other opportunities. Meanwhile, Costa Rica has developed and maintained an image of itself as an exceptional nation within Central America, standing out for its peaceful and democratic foundation. One consequence of these processes has been the rise of strong negative attitudes held by Costa Ricans towards Nicaraguans. How and from where did the negative perceptions originate from? What feeds these negative attitudes? How can these attitudes be challenged? These questions were addressed through a qualitative participatory action research project with 18 Nicaraguans in 3 distinct areas of Costa Rica. Interviews were audio recorded or filmed. Anaylsis of these interviews suggests that overall, xenophobic attitudes towards Nicaraguans are strong in Costa Rica. Individual differences between participants’ motivations and experiences as immigrants challenge the widespread stereotypes about Nicaraguan immigrants. The socioeconomic status of participants influenced their experience of xenophobia, as did the cultural diversity of the area in which they lived. Finally, the different ways in which the participants experienced and were involved with resisting widespread xenophobic attitudes in society challenges mainstream literature on resistance as well as drawing attention to the different practices that contest xenophobia in different areas and across different social classes.

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