As it often happens when I read novels written in Spanish, the language becomes my favorite part. He soon meets Marcus Garvey, other colleagues, his faithful employer and a beautiful women from the upper class; both his political and romantic futures start almost at the same time. Rossi has a powerful and unique narrative, she switches from first person to third person indistinctively to let readers understand why the characters think as they do. It is a story about ethnic identity and nation-building. I strongly recommend it. She studied dance, theater and languages.
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She is the author of a muckraking environmental novel, La Loca de Gandoca — the story of government collusion in turning a wildlife refuge over to developers. One evening in the San Jose hostel where I was staying, we talked about her novels and the challenges of being a writer in Costa Rica. They watch a lot of television. In Europe or in the States you always see people reading when they go on vacation.
Not here. It has been there for 17 years. But I think that there is another reason, and that is because the last government and this government both were intent on going on with this mining project [Las Crucitas, an open pit gold mine proposed by a Canadian company] which is so devastating, in the north. They have declared war on the ecologists. The president, Laura Chinchilla, said publicly we have to declare war to the ecologists. Did you ever work for the government like the main character did?
Yes, without pay — I did disguise myself. I still have the disguise at home, I have pictures of me in disguise. You have to have a sense of humor. You have noticed that Costa Ricans cannot say things directly?
They have always to present the situation in the most peaceful, delicate way. Since political persecution here after the Civil War [in ] was very strong, and the Communist Party was outlawed, here being a communist is the worst thing that you can say. It still is like that — people are so concerned.
So the people that went and risked their lives — some died in El Salvador in the wars — they never told their story. So I wanted to tell the story of a Tica [Costa Rican] that was there and fought and almost gave her life for that war, because it was supposed to be the liberation of the whole of Central America. Nobody responded. Costa Ricans and Salvadorans were very inconvenienced by that book because of the things that are said there about the guerrillas en Salvador, because there I recollect the story about a man and a woman who were the main leaders in the Salvadoran guerilla, and because of a Cuban intervention, one was killed and the other committed suicide.
And that was a story that was never told. This was a true story. A true story. Those stories — I saw that they had to be brought back, because people are afraid of talking about it. Historians are very punctilious about sources and historical facts. What we writers have to do is fictionalize — we conjecture. We dare to think what is lacking. But when the sources are failing or there are other indications about the situation that are possibilities but are not there in the sources expressly, what writers do is they imagine, they make a conjecture, they say — this possibly happens and they make history alive.
Afterwards we had long vacations and then we could go back three months a year. We kept going back. So it was not really breaking an umbilical cord. At least until I was 15 or 16, my life was there. Much of your writing explores the complex ethnic and class divisions in that area. What matters most for me is the relationship between Afro descendants and non-Afro descendants, because I think there is something unsolved there, because non-African descendants despised the culture [of African descendants] that was so rich, that had all the Victorian culture of the lodges and the masonry, and they were also so literate.
For them, literature was so important. They were literate, much more literate than the non-Afro descendant part, and I tried to bring that out in Limon Blues. But what I wanted to touch was these interfaces because cultural groups do interact, they do fall in love, they do marry, and problems come. And not being Afro descendant of that community, because of course all Costa Ricans have a lot of different bloods, and I know — look at my hair, I have some African blood in me — but not being of the Afro descendant community directly, I could not write about the Afro descendant community only, because I was not one of them.
I could only see them from the point of view of someone who is outside. But they have been really harsh — The criticism has been harsh?
Is that still taboo? Are you working on a new novel? When I started teaching I had a block and I did not know how to go about it.
So it was very refreshing to have something else to do, to let things move by themselves. So this was very — how can I describe it? It was — Serendipitous. It was serendipitous. What has drawn you to Rome? I think I needed to do a clean break with the history and the country, and go into something that was very foreign to me. But the Italians are always joking, very friendly, very open. Your next book will be published in Italian in Italy, surely. That is a matter of… chance.
Your books should be very accessible to people outside Costa Rica. The narrative drive is really strong, and the sensual language and the politics and the love — I think that they would be successful if the right publisher got hold of them and publicized them in the right way.
There is not a single Costa Rican writer that is distributed beyond Costa Rica. Not even in Central America. And this used to be very different. In the 80s, in the 70s, the publishers — they were like one single enterprise. So when they published in Costa Rica they also sold the books abroad. But now most of them are multinational enterprises, and they have to be accountable to the main house for sales, and they can do things to sell more if they publish in the country where they are situated.
If they have to take these books, for example, to Guatemala, they have enormous costs of exportation — exporting the books to Guatemala, and then nothing assures them that Guatemala is going to buy them. Very small. But at least Costa Ricans, the ones who read, will read you.
So what I did these two years was putting these kids to read. In two months, you could see how their spelling would become better. They were more articulate when they spoke. They cannot express themselves. And I think the Costa Rican people are becoming a stupid people. When they called me at the university and wanted me to teach there, I decided to give it a try. I gave it a try, and I loved it, but I think I loved it too much. It was eating up my writing.
But they took all my time, all my energy. It was too much. Some people can do it more easily — this having a double life, this teaching and then [you] save energy and get into the writing mood, but the writing mood is very absorbing, and students, especially when they are very young, are even more absorbing.
And they have email — And cellphones. So when did you stop teaching? In two years, this is the first semester that I am not going to teach. I stopped in December. His essays are wonderful. I will impersonate him and she will do political analysis of his essays, and I will write his memoirs, but not mine. Use the contact form below to write to Anacristina Rossi or Carol Polsgrove.
She studied in England, France and Holland and currently lives and works as a journalist, translator and author in her native Costa Rica. Time leaps and flashbacks allow an unexpected view behind the scenes of the historical process of radical change on the subcontinent. From the fragmented movement of the black people and the fight of the cocoa planters for their land it leads right up to the peace talks of the 90s with the known outcome of immense social gaps, poverty and crime. When young Aisha retrieves her black friend Ahmed after three years - formerly Parcival, he had gone underground - she becomes infected by his political ideas, though she is highly disappointed that he now has a girlfriend. As a witness to various scenes in which she comes across children of seemingly baseless aggression, she wishes to understand the cause for such extortionate hatred. After discovering how the big landowners of Costa Rica shatter all political intentions and prevent a land reform she initially withdraws from the resistance.
COSTA RICA: Limón Blues – Anacristina Rossi