Things That Matter

Costa Rica’s Place In The World Makes It The Tropical Paradise Dreams Are Made Of

Costa Ricans have a motto that is as simple as it is full of wisdom: “Pura vida.” It roughly translates as “Just life” or “Life only.” This mantra is only fitting for a country which prides itself in its natural beauty and its sustainable policies that protect biodiversity. Costa Rica literally means “Rich Coast,” which gives you an idea of how ingrained the idea of having plentiful resources is in the national mind frame. Here are some facts that tell us why this Central American country is a prime destination for those seeking to lose themselves in nature, find adventure and get in touch with the flora and fauna we need to protect. Government policies have put spending in initiatives such as a strong educational system and the move to renewable and clean energies to power development. If you are planning a holiday, no descarten Costa Rica for any reason. Pura vida, mi gente! 

1. Costa Rica’s geographical position is such a privilege.

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The country borders beautiful Nicaragua to the north, the lush Caribbean Sea to the northeast, the financial epicenter of Panama to the Southeast and the warm Pacific Ocean to the southwest. Cocos Island has Ecuador just to the south. Having so much coast basically creates a lush, green jungle in between. Add some volcanoes and you have paradise on Earth. 

2. It has a small, happy population.

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Costa Rica is called by many “the Switzerland of Latin America.” It has a population of a mere 5 million, with about 2 million living in the capital of San Jose and surrounding metropolitan enclaves. This is a pretty manageable number, which also prevents overpopulation overcrowding protected natural areas, which is a pattern in the region. 

3. Who needs an army? Let us rejoice in peace.

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Costa Rica prides itself in not having an army. Federal resources that would otherwise be destined for defense purposes are instead directed to the protection of natural areas and resources. This gives the country a zen vibe that visitors just love. It must be amazing doing yoga there and just flowing with the universe! 

4. Education is queen in Costa Rica! 

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While most countries spend about 4 percent of their budget on education, Costa Rica spends up to 7 percent. This has allowed industries such as finance and corporate services to flourish. And tourism, of course: we mean, look at this amazing landscape! 

5. Volcanoes are a natural wonder and Costa Rica has plenty.

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When we think of a tropical paradise, we often think of beaches, jungles, and volcanoes! There are 14 known volcanoes in the country, and six have been active in the last 75 years. You can visit the Poas Volcano Crater, a sight to marvel at turquoise waters in the middle of grey, millenary rock formations. 

6. Costa Rica has a tropical climate all year round.

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The country is between 8 and 12 degrees north of the Equator, so if you want to escape winter at any time you can take a plane to this gorgeous country. Beware, though: with tropical climate comes a fair bit of rain. The period of May to November has heavy downpours in some regions, which provides a sort of charm in itself. If your thing is trekking, December to April is drier, and therefore more appropriate. 

7. Costa Rica is synonymous with biodiversity.

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Costa Rica is not a very big country, and it amounts to just 0.03 percent of the globe’s landmass. However, it contains a whopping 5 percent of the planet’s biodiversity. 

8. Twenty-five percent of the country consists of protected areas. This is the highest percentage in the world.

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That is huge! A quarter of the territory is made up of national parks and protected areas, basically providing a much needed “lung” to the region (bordering countries like Nicaragua and Panama are overexploited). If only every country followed Costa Rica’s lead.

9. Rivers and waterfalls are abundant.

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Costa Rica is surrounded by the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, the country is tattooed with amazing rivers and waterfalls that keep the ecosystem alive and well. As fresh water becomes a more scarce commodity, Costa Rica will be even more blessed. 

10. Birds, reptiles, Costa Rica has it all.

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Besides the cutest animals that have made Costa Rica’s fauna famous (don’t worry, we’ll get to them!), the country is home to at least 840 species of birds (if you are into bird watching, then this is the place to go!). It also hosts endangered species of turtles, such as the green turtle, the Giant leatherback, the hawksbill, and loggerhead turtles. Authorities are working hard to protect turtles from poaching and harm to their habitats. So now it is your turn to stop using so much plastic that can harm them when they are swimming freely in the ocean.

11. Ecotourism is highly developed.

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The high educational levels of the population and the natural beauty of the country have made it a great destination for ecotourism. This includes walks, trekking, surfing and, of course, visits to the country’s famous coffee plantations. The coffee in Costa Rica is similar to Mexican varieties from Chiapas, and provides a flowery, fruity aftertaste that screams “Holiday mood”! The country receives about 3 million visitors per year. 

12. Of course, we wouldn’t forget about a cute sloth pic.

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Sloths are gorgeous, slooooow mammals that live in the trees. Sadly, they have been trafficked as pets and some of them have been run over by cars. There are multiple efforts to rescue them and make sure that this species survives the biggest pest of them all: humans.

13. There are four species of cute Costa Rican monkeys, changuitos pa los cuates.

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The country is famous for its many animals, and the cries of monkeys in the jungle is a particularly iconic sound. The four furry cositas hermosas are: the white-headed capuchin, the mantled howler, the endangered Geoffroy’s spider monkey, and the Central American squirrel monkey. 

14. Costa Ricans are as diverse as their natural wonders.

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Costa Rica is a true cultural melting pot. Like all of Latin America, this melting pot is a product of the traumatic experiences of slavery and colonization, but Costa Ricans have learnt to live in harmony. As per the census, the country is made up of 83.6 percent whites or mestizos, 6.7 percent mulattoes, 2.4 percent Native American and 1.1 percent Black or Afro-Caribbean. There has been a constant influx of European migration: there are people of Italian, German, English, Dutch, French, Irish, Portuguese, and Polish descent.

15. Costa Rica is saying hasta nunca to fossil fuels.

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Costa Ricans know that protecting the environment goes far beyond having protected areas. That is why 98 percent of its electricity is produced without the use of fossil fuels. Wind farms abound in the country, the massive Reventazón hydroelectric dam is now fully operational, and solar panels are being introduced in businesses and households.

READ: This Costa Rican Plane Hotel Boasts More Monkeys Than People And It Is The Perfect Escape

Everybody Thinks Of Rio When It Comes To Carnivals—But Other Latin American Countries Celebrate Too: Here Are Mexico’s Top Carnavales

Culture

Everybody Thinks Of Rio When It Comes To Carnivals—But Other Latin American Countries Celebrate Too: Here Are Mexico’s Top Carnavales

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Despite its international reputation for loving a good party, Mexico isn’t known for its Carnival although it is celebrated in one form or another in about 225 communities. Of course none is anywhere as big or famous as those of Rio de Janeiro or New Orleans, but they’re still a lively and fun party nevertheless. In Mexico all carnivals have a different meaning and history behind them, but they’re all colorful and lively parties that are closely linked to the days of ‘mal agüero’ or ‘lost days’ of the Mesoamerican Xalámatl calendar.

Like other Catholic celebrations, Carnival was introduced into Mexico by the Spanish.

It gained acceptance by many indigenous communities because it fell around the same time as the “lost days” of the Mesoamerican calendar. The lost days and Carnival, both share the same traditions of donning masks and letting certain social rules slide.

But when the social rules were sliding a little too much, the Spanish halted the celebrations.

In fact it was those two things that caused colonial authorities to suppress Carnival in New Spain by the 17th century. Celebrations by the indigenous and lower castes had become too irreverent and mocking of authority. By the early 18th century, major Carnival celebrations had been successfully banned in the cities.

A number of small towns however, managed to keep the tradition alive.

A few rural areas managed to evade enforcement, and their Carnivals survived. However, the ban had the effect of isolating such celebrations, one reason why each fiesta has very localized characteristics.

These are the largest and most famous carnavales:

Mazatlan, Sinaloa

One of the most popular carnivals is the one that takes place in Mazatlan. This carnaval is known for being one of the oldest celebrations in the country. At the Sinaloan party you’ll find celebrations like “The coronation of the king of ‘Alegría’ and the carnival queen,” you can go to the inauguration of gastronomic tasting menus, the fantasy dance, and the “quema del mal humor.” Other traditional activities include the naval combat, the dance of the ambassadors and many others.

This carnival takes place from February 8 through the 13. Visit www.carnavalmazatlan.net for more info.

Veracruz

The jarocho carnival is possibly the most famous one. This party is one of the loudest and most  colorful events of Mexico. This year, Veracruz will be crowning a carnival king and queen, for both adults and children. There will be concerts, parades and lots and lots of food. Also, expect the traditional ‘quema de mal humor.’

It will be running from February 7 to 13. For more information go to carnavalveracruz.com.mx

Carnaval de Campeche

Campeche’s carnival is also one of the oldest ones of the country. An important activity is the ‘quema del mal humor’, which is represented by a rag doll dressed as a pirate. Once the doll is set on fire, the ‘festival de las flores’ starts, as well as the popular dances and parades. This carnival will also choose a king and queen who will receive their crowns on a saturday, also known as ‘Sabado de Bando’. Other activities include the ‘ronda naval; a paint fight, also known as ‘pintadera’, concerts and more.

This carnival takes place from January 1 to February 13.

Carnaval de Morelos

The state of Morelos is home to many carnivals. There’s the carnival of Axochiapan, Tlatizapan, Tlayacapan, Tepoztlan, Yautepec and Atlatlahuacan. One of the events that are most representatives of Morelos carnavales is the ‘representacion del origen del Chinelo’ in Tlayacapan.

On from February 7 to March 24.

Merida, Yucatan

The state of Yucatan also has the traditional ‘quema del mal humor’, coronation of the carnival king and queen, as well as parades for children. Other activities include ‘Sábado de Fantasía’, Domingo de Bachata, Tuesday of the battle of the flowers and for the last day of the ‘Celebracion de la carne’ they burry Juan Carnaval.

Carnaval de Pinotepa de Don Luis, Oaxaca

In this small town, the locals put on a satire of Mestizo customs like weddings and divorces called “Danza de los tejorones” —in this dance, the tejorones are young mestizos that dance with a rattle and a handkerchief. At this carnival, you’ll also find comparsas, masks and the staging of ‘the caceria del tigre.’ Visit this carnival throughout February

San Juan Chamula, Chiapas

At this festival, locals dress up as Mash —a monkey— which is one of the traditional attires of San Juan Chamula. They run and hide from bulls that they let loose in the Plaza of San Juan Chamula. This carnival also celebrates the dances of ‘comisarios’, ‘xionales’ and ‘maltajimones.’

These Tourists Thought It Would Be Funny To Poop Inside A Temple In Machu Picchu: They’re Facing Prison Time

Things That Matter

These Tourists Thought It Would Be Funny To Poop Inside A Temple In Machu Picchu: They’re Facing Prison Time

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Picture this: You’ve made the long, difficult journey to Machu Picchu, taking a variety of planes and trains and buses to get there, and now finally, you’re inside the grounds. You begin to explore the more than 500-year-old site, marveling at its ancient structures, its surreal terraces and ramps. Life is sweet; the world is wonderful and mysterious. But at some point —and for some unknown reason— you sneak into a sacred temple constructed half a millennium ago, drop your pants, and POOP one of the greatest marvels this world has to offer. This actually happened.

Six tourists emptied their bowels inside the hallowed grounds of an Incan worshipping room: There’s something deeply wrong with some people.

For some inexplicable reason, that’s exactly what a group of tourists allegedly did over the weekend, France 24 reports. Six people in their twenties and early thirties were arrested on Sunday after Peruvian authorities caught them in a restricted area of Machu Picchu’s Temple of the Sun, a revered part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Park rangers and police found feces inside of the temple.

The Temple of the Sun had also been damaged after a piece of stone had “broken off a wall and caused a crack in the floor,” regional police chief Wilbert Leyva told Andina, a local news agency. “The six tourists are being detained and investigated by the public ministry for the alleged crime against cultural heritage,” Leyva said.

The group was made up of one French, two Brazilians, two Argentines and a Chilean, according to police.

They face at least four years in prison if found guilty of damaging Peru’s heritage. Several parts of the semicircular Temple of the Sun are off limits to tourists for preservation reasons.

Worshipers at the temple would make offerings to the sun.

The sun was considered the most important deity in the Inca empire as well as other pre-Inca civilizations in the Andean region. The Machu Picchu estate—which includes three distinct areas for agriculture, housing and religious ceremonies—is the most iconic site from the Inca empire that ruled a large swathe of western South America for 100 years before the Spanish conquest in the 16th century.

Three Argentines, a Brazilian, a Chilean and a French woman make up the group.

Local media reported that all the tourists were aged between 20 and 32. In 2014, authorities denounced a trend that saw tourists getting naked at the sacred location. Four American tourists were detained in March of that year forremoving their clothes and posing for photos at the site. In a pair of separate incidents earlier in the same week, two Canadians and two Australians were detained for stripping down for pictures there.

Machu Picchu, means “old mountain” in the Quechua language indigenous to the area.

The historic site is at the top of a lush mountain and was built during the reign of the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438-1471). It lies around 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Andean city of Cusco, the old Inca capital in southeastern Peru. The site was rediscovered in 1911 by the American explorer Hiram Bingham. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1983.