Costa Rican Catholicism [CR29]

Though many a Pagan and or Heathen would prefer to utterly ignore the existence of certain faiths (with good reason to a certain exent), it is undeniable that we live in the same world that they do and as a result they are more undeniable than would sometimes be preferable. One side effect of this is that we often don’t consider that nowadays there are almost as many denominations of Christianity as there are disparate praxes of Paganism and Heathenry; more, perhaps, if you group Abraham’s Big Three together. Being an extremely Roman Catholic country (colonised by the Spanish after all) Costa Rica was a place that I thought would present a very oppressive face of Christianity, particularly given that the poor a usually those who embrace it the most fervently and I was going to be living in the poorest part of Costa Rica. What I have found is instead quite interesting and not at all how I expected it would be. Did you know that it is the rich who tend to be more religiously oriented than the poor here?


Though there are some fairly blatant reasons why, it is an unusual twist on the usual state of things to find that in Costa Rica the richer a person is the more likely they are to be very religious. Conversely, the poorer you are here the less likely it is that religion plays a major part (if any part) in your life. Tied in with one of those blatant reasons why, one of the things you tend to see is that the poorer folks here have various surprisingly effective home remedies for a variety of problems. The simple fact is that they don’t have the money to go to the clinic whenever someone gets sick, by which I mean that even mid range problems are dealt with at home. The only times I’ve known people here to go to the hospital have been for cancer, a head wound that needed stiches and might have been worse than it seemed and when someone is pregnant. Unfortunately, as is usually the case, there is more than a sprinkling of religious people of the ‘less than lucid’ variety – in both rich and poor.


One of the families I am a friend of is going through some turbulent times because one of the sons has fallen in Romeo-and-Juliet style love with a girl. That in itself is no cause for major concern, young boys and girls have been doing stupid things since well before our appendices (that weird, useless organ you sometimes get removed) ceased having a purpose. The problems arise when the girl’s family are the sole members of a near cultish church in which the family patriarch claims he is a prophet that has foreseen the death of the mother of son whose family I am a friend of. Patriarch of ‘Juliet’s’ family-church-cult thing has predicted the death of ‘Romeo’s’ mother – the concerning thing is that the mother has already been to hospital once recently and has persistent migraines.Thus far I’ve refrained from becoming involved in any capacity (but that might change). In comparison, having a woman quote scripture directly from the Bible in the middle of a class I am trying to each is not that much of an issue.


I honestly don’t recall whether I mentioned in an article why I was coming to Costa Rica, but in case I didn’t; I came here to teach English as a volunteer to use up time waiting to hear about a job in Japan. I teach the Intermediate class and the aforementioned woman is in my class, as is her Doctor husband. Doctor and Wife are some of the wealthier residents of the area and Wife’s status as a spiritual adviser here has been causing some issues in class. Practically speaking, no-one will disagree with her because of her position in the community here. Plainly speaking, there is no discussion topic or debate (or anything really) that can be answered with scripture or reference to God in some manner. Though I won’t deny that there are levels of devotion to any particular faith, Wife fervently believes that God will look after everything – from her children’s destinies to the hypothetical invasion of Costa Rica by some outside force (discussion topic; fun fact – Costa Rica does not have an army, navy or air force).


Though there are plenty of people in the world, in virtually every country, that have their own fringe groups I do find it interesting that in two examples of such in Costa Rica there are some striking similarities to Paganism and Heathenry (broadly speaking). On the one hand you have divination of the future and on the other you have the manifestation of change through deity. Yes, these examples are a stretch and perhaps I am being overly correct in not simply calling them crazy. Nevertheless, they are a good reminder that the world still has many secrets.


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