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A Country Without an Army?

A Country Without an Army?

IMG_494810 - sm Since our arrival in Costa Rica, we have found it intriguing that Costa Rica is one of very few countries in the world that does not have an army. Visitors often ask: How will the Costaricenses defend their nation in case of an invasion?  What do they do with the money that they would spend on the military? Why don’t other countries take over Costa Rica? All these questions can be answered by keeping in mind that a culture of peace is what makes this situation possible. We learned that Costa Rica makes a phenomenal effort to maintain cordial relations with its border countries: Nicaragua and Panama. We also learned that children, since their early years, are taught to negotiate and to respect people of different beliefs. IMG_4987 - smPresently, the president of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias Sanchez, is the mediator of the conflict in Honduras in which two politicians claim to be the legitimate president of the country; the current situation there is often given as a good example of why Costa Rica chose to eliminate the army in 1948. In 1987, Mr. Arias won the Nobel Peace Price for his mediating role in the war in Nicaragua. Costa Rica also has the Universidad de la Paz where young Costaricenses learn about international relationships and conflict resolutions.

In spite of the fact that Costa Rica does not have an army, some Costa Ricans have fought in military conflicts for the United States. In Santa Ana we saw several plaques that commemorate the lives of Costaricenses who died in the 1960s while fighting in the army of the U.S.  Some people may find it contradictory that some Costaricenses enrolled in the army of another country. IMG_4952 - smWhy did Costa Ricans enlist in the army of the U.S.?  Why are they willing to sacrifice their lives for other countries?  The understanding of a culture requires seeing the complexities involved in the cultural practices of every nation. But the challenge for us is to look under the microscope of other cultures. Can you think of the United States without an army? What changes would the citizens need to make to live in a country whose defense would depend upon an international community? There is no question that Cost Rica is a very fertile ground where new ideas can be explored and our understanding of culture can be expanded.