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Books on Costa Rican Culture

The Ticos: Culture and Social Change in Costa Rica

“Achieves the rare distinction of being useful to professionals, students, and the layman alike. It is informative, well written and to be recommended.”
–Southern Sociologist
“A very sensitive portrayal of Tico culture and society.”

“This unparalleled social and cultural history traces the development of Costa Rica’s culture and institutions.

With the perspective of more than half a century of first-hand observation, the Biesanzes describe how Costa Rica’s economy, government, educational and health-care systems, family structures, religion, and other institutions have evolved, and how this evolution has affected–and reflected–people’s daily lives, their beliefs, and their values. They are particularly concerned with change and continuity since the economic crisis of the early 1980’s and the structural adjustment that followed.

The economic policies of the past decade have resulted in a wider gap between rich and poor in the country, a middle class struggling to maintain status, and a growing sense of frustration and resentment. There is also a widespread fear of a loss of national sovereignty and cultural identity under the pressure of external demands and the impact of foreign goods and mass media. Nevertheless, though Tico society certainly has been affected by these changes, the authors find that the response to change has been shaped by a deep-rooted culture. Despite the popularity of many elements of foreign influence, they find even more evidence of the continuity of a cultural core.

Providing a comprehensive introduction to a country they know well, the authors also contribute astutely to an understanding of the reciprocal influence of structural adjustment and national culture.”

— Lynne Rienner, Publishers
This is a delightful book. Like the original version, it brims with the kind of insider’s everyday information and insights that are essential for generalists and specialists alike but are so hard to come by; and its style remains refreshingly unpretentious, accessible, and frank. Yet this revised version represents a notable improvement over the original. Unlike the original, it must grapple with the post-1980 theme of paradise in trouble. In doing so successfully, it conveys the harder edge and troubling uncertainties of Costa Rica and the wider world at the threshhold of a new century without losing sight of the still striking features of Costa Rican exceptionalism. In the face of a virtually global dismantling of the bulwarks of social welfare and the widespread mislabeling of Latin American post-military regimes as authentic democracies, this description of Costa Rica’s combination of mounting problems and lingering achievements will serve students and the general public as well as academicians and policymakers concerned with the challenges of the emerging world order.”
Mavis Hiltunen Biesanz is author (with John Biesanz) of Costa Rican Life and The People of Panama and (with Richard and Karen Biesanz) The Costa Ricans. Her publications also include multiple editions of Modern Society: An Introduction to Social Science and Introduction to Sociology. She has been a resident of Costa Rica since 1971.
Richard Biesanz is professor of sociology and anthropology at Corning Community College.

Karen Zubris Biesanz writes on Costa Rican society.

Land and People
Government and Politics
Class, Race, and Ethnic Identity
Housing, Health, and Everyday Living
The Family
Change and Continuity a la Tica
July 1998/ca. 250 pages
ISBN: 1-55587-724-9

ISBN: 1-55587-737-0

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