Contested Identities in Costa Rica

BookContested Identities in Costa Rica

Contested Identities in Costa Rica

Constructions of the Tico in Literature and Film

Contemporary Hispanic and Lusophone Cultures, 20


June 28th, 2019



Other Formats



Costa Rica is a country known internationally for its eco-credentials, dazzling coastlines, and reputation as one of the happiest and most peaceful nations on earth. Beneath this façade, however, lies an exclusionary rhetoric of nationalism bound up in the concept of the tico, as many Costa Ricans refer to themselves. Beginning by considering the very idea of national identity and what this constitutes, this book explores the nature of the idealised tico identity, demonstrating the ways in which it has assumed a white supremacist, Central Valley-centric, patriarchal, heteronormative stance based on colonial ideals. Chapters two and three then go on to consider the literature and films produced that stand in opposition to this normative image of who or what is tico and their creation as vehicles of soft power which aim to question social norms. This book explores protest literature from the 1970s by Quince Duncan, Carmen Naranjo, and Alfonso Chase who narrate their experiences from the margins of society by virtue of their identity as Afro-Costa Rican, feminist, and homosexual authors. Cinema from the twenty-first century is then analysed to demonstrate the nuanced position chosen by national directors Esteban Ramírez, Paz Fábrega, Jurgen Ureña, and Patricia Velásquez to challenge the dominant nation-image as they reinscribe youth culture, a female consciousness, trans identity, and Afro-Costa Rica onto the fabric of the nation.

‘Throughout the book, Harvey-Kattou offers clear, concise readings on film and literature to articulate new models of Costa Rican belonging and national identity.’
Stephanie M. Pridgeon, Bulletin of Spanish Studies

Author Information

Liz Harvey-Kattou is a Lecturer in Hispanic Studies at University of Westminster

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
List of Figures7
The Tico12
Internal ‘Others’14
Normative Identity: Constructions and Challenges16
1. The Creation of Tiquicidad and Theories of National Identity21
The Creation of Tiquicidad21
What Defines Us? Theories of National Identity29
The Tico ‘Other’ as a Postcolonial Power Formation33
Costa Rica’s Internal ‘Others’39
Defining the Costa Rican Internal ‘Other’: Subalternity, Ethnicity, Gender, Sexuality49
2. Coded Messages: Costa Rican Protest Literature, 1970–198563
Allegories of Identity in Los cuatro espejos by Quince Duncan66
The Use of Subtext for Feminist Critique in the Short Stories of Carmen Naranjo86
Encoding the Gay Experience in Costa Rica: The Fiction of Alfonso Chase105
3. Reflecting the Nation: Costa Rican Cinema in the Twenty-First Century123
The History and Infrastructure of Costa Rican Cinema124
Situating Costa Rican Cinema127
Intersections at the Tico Centre: Esteban Ramírez’s Gestación (2009)128
Trans Spaces in San José: Jurgen Ureña’s Abrázame como antes (2016)143
Undercutting Norms at the Periphery: Paz Fábrega’s Agua fría de mar (2009)158
Constructing the Margins: Representing Limón in Patricia Velásquez’s Dos aguas (2014)174
Some Concluding Remarks191
Who or What Counts as Tico?192
Challenges to the Norm195