Nicas & Ticos: A Look At The Relationship Between Nicaragua & Costa Rica

Most Nicaraguans view Costa Rica as that pesky neighbor, always complaining at the neighborhood block watch meeting.

costa rica

Before my trip to Costa Rica, I had heard a variety of opinions about the locals and their culture. In America, the Central American country is widely viewed as a great vacation spot that attracts adventurists and beach bums. In Nicaragua, however, I heard a much different story. Most Nicaraguans view Costa Rica as that pesky neighbor, always complaining at the neighborhood block watch meeting. It is possible the tumultuous relationship between two Central American nations can be exemplified in two particular scenarios.

On one hand, Costa Rica and Nicaragua have recently disputed over the Río San Juan and who is the rightful “owner” of this river. The International Court of Justice recently declared that the Río San Juan belongs to Nicaragua but that Costa Rica maintain several rights to travel on the river. The river is adequately important, as it could be the sight of another canal that would connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Most Nicaraguans believe Costa Ricans have contaminated the river with waste from a highway that runs along the Costa Rican side. In my honest opinion, an important step towards reconciliation between the ticos (Costa Ricans) and nicas (Nicaraguans) would be a collaborative effort to clean up the river and develop sustainable eco-tourism.

costa rica

In addition, tension continue to rise between two parties due to a great number of Nicaraguan migrant workers who have immigrated to work in Costa Rica. Primarily, the Nicaraguans arrive to work in service jobs, as domestic workers. During my trip to Costa Rica, I was able to speak to two groups that represent Nicaraguan workers and provide support during their struggles in Costa Rica.

Astradomes is the Association of Domestic Workers and is a voice for the needs and opinions of mostly female domestic workers. Astradomes fights to promote the rights of domestic workers, such as paid time off and the enforcement of an eight hour work day. They also offer great services for their members: providing a computer class that allows women to connect with their families through Skype and emails. Astradomes is an excellent program that works to be a voice for the often-ignored domestic workers.


Enlaces Nicaragüenses is another great organization that brings space for Nicaraguans living in Costa Rica to meet, connect and maintain their Nicaraguan identities. I had the chance to speak with some women in the group and they shared immigration stories and the difficulty to acquire appropriate papers to legally stay there. The most important aspect of these groups lies in aiding the Nicaraguans through a sometimes-rough transition into the Costa Rican way of life and they are supplying the nicas with a space to freely express themselves.

I truly believe the relationship between Costa Rica and Nicaragua could be improved through a coalition of both governments, implementing easier methods for Nicaraguan migrant workers to maintain their Nicaraguan identities and live in Costa Rica legally.

After my visit to Costa Rica, I retrieved better understanding of the complexities within the country. While most Americans travel there for eco-tourism purposes, I think it is important to investigate this other facet of the culture and perhaps leave the country with a more in-depth comprehension. The Nicaraguan-Costa Rican relationship will be extremely important in the coming years and I hope a more transparent coalition can be reached.

For more information on Astradomes and Enlaces Nicaragüenses.

Maura Lewandowski

Maura is from Pittsburgh, PA and loved visiting Lisbon. When it comes to traveling, she's a planner. She does research before she arrives at the destination and makes sure she can fit in as much as possible.

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