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Home / Articles / Columnists / On the Bright Side /  Dingos and Gringos… Pura Vida!
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Friday, August 5,2016

Dingos and Gringos… Pura Vida!

By Jonna Shutowick. M.S. Ed.  

You can tell a lot about a place by the way they treat their animals. I spent much of the summer in Costa Rica and met some of the most kind-hearted, life-embracing people I’ve ever encountered... anywhere. Monkeys and humans share the mangos from the trees, cats relax on bookshelves in coffee shops and “dingos” (as stray dogs are affectionately called) wander the streets visiting their favorite spots, beckoned by nickname from all the locals. The mutual respect between the people and the animals in our little town made my heart smile. And it seemed to carry over to the wildlife as well. A bird landed on my coffee cup one morning, chirped me a little song and flew off (true story!). Coatis poked their noses right into our beach bags, and iguanas visited us on our porch, eyes staring and heads cocked, seeming to ask, “Are you leaving soon? I want to sun myself on that chair.”

But the attitude that I think best exemplifies the genuine kindness of the people we met, besides how they treated us, is how they treated the dingos. They each had a name given to them by the locals: Spot, Snoopy, Cocoloco, Negro, Blanco, and Minito (tiny little guy), and were completely welcome in all the restaurants, bars, and homes (as were the chickens!). They frollicked, played in the ocean, snuggled and slept in the street. And as these surfing dogs walked from place to place to share a little something from your plate, it felt like they were coming over to visit and say “Hola”. They never begged or stole. One night, Blanco even shared a piece of bread that a little boy tossed to him with his buddy Minito. This palpable camaraderie permeated every experience we had in Brasilito. Picture a dirt road about 500 yards long with potholes big enough to swim in, lined with a local store, a barber shop, and a few bars and soditas, ending at the beach. The owner of the main sodalita was, from what we could garner, the matriarch of the town. Her family’s sodita is one of the oldest in this little fishing village. No matter what we asked, or what we needed, she “had a guy.” She was a fantastic hustler, in the best sense of the word. You need a jet ski? Gina has a guy. Want to fish? No problem. ATV’s and zip lining? Let me call my brother…. Todo somos familia. Dingo or Gringo, they loved us all the same.

But while tourism is welcomed, the locals also wisely fight back against overdevelopment, maintaining the authenticity of their home, while embracing the visitors. The government of Costa Rica is dedicated to sustainable development, and every small business is locally owned and operated. The country is 100% energy independent, utilizing the abundance of hydro, geothermal, and solar power available without the need for fossil fuels. This helps in maintaining the country’s pristine beauty, which most would argue is its main draw. But honestly, for me it’s the people. Ticos are the real deal. They exude the Costa Rican philosophy “Pura Vida” (Spanish for “pure life”) which emphasizes slowing down, celebrating good fortune and refusing to take anything for granted. Living life to the fullest is more than just a saying down here, it is a lifestyle. íMe encanta Costa Rica - pura vida!

 

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