I woke up in a comfortable room, the morning wind providing a pleasant wake up call. Maybe it really was all in my head. Strange daydream, but I’m OK with that as long as everything is back to normal.
Everything was not back to normal. As I rose, I realized this was not the lodge we had reserved, but a very well kept Spanish colonial house. From the window, I could see across the veranda a bustling of activity. It wasn’t long before I realized I was not in my own time, or at least appeared to be so.
In an hour I was in the dining hall, making nice with some acculturated Germans. I immediately thought of William Walker, although it seemed these men were here for business and not mercenaries or soldiers. They tell me sweet stories of fresh loves discovered and plans to settle in this paradise permanently. Even with their thick accents, their good spirits in finding this little oasis of prosperity and happiness showed. Or perhaps it was just their women. Some things just don’t change.
Everyone around me looked in wonder as I looked very much like one of the natives, and yet could not speak their strange Creole Spanish, very old Spanish to me. For a while I was worried they were going to think I may be a spy for Walker of some sort, but it seems I ended up in a time before he was even relevant.
No, I happened upon a time before all that. Everyone was focused on their farms and making money off of acres and acres of coffee land. The people seemed happy to be there, if not that well off, and as I was starting to notice, a little bit left to their own devices.
As it turned out, I ran across a Costa Rica that was still a part of the Captaincy General of Guatemala, which was really the fancy name for Spain’s expansive empire in Latin America. As Spain focused on other areas, they had left Costa Rica behind to take care of themselves. With all the education and structures needed to govern themselves, the ticos managed to make a democracy out of it. No one particular class was singled out for oppressive working conditions or discrimination.
Still, there was a sense of tension around us, as if they were aware that any time things could change very radically, quickly. Wars for independence had been waged in other areas, but at this time it was with Mexico that their Spanish empire was engaged in, and things were winding down. The Costa Ricans were waiting for the news intently, if not eagerly.
But then, there were happenings in the motherland as well. Spain’s own king, the incompetent Ferdinand VII, had run the country bankrupt and gotten himself kicked out via popular revolt. Even as they were enjoying their relative independence, they were well on their way to getting the real thing.
Immediately after the revolt, Spain defaulted to the liberal Constitution of 1812. This led Colonel Agustin de Iterdube to plan and carry out what was to be known as the Plan of Iguala, negotiating freedom for Mexico, and simultaneously winning freedom for all the provinces previously under the Captaincy.
As luck would have it, I chanced upon the time when Costa Ricans were about to discover their new freedoms.
it was late in the afternoon the day after I’d arrived that it arrived. A torch carried all the way from Nicaragua, informing all Costa Ricans that they were no longer under Spanish rule. That they had been free since three days ago. Everyone was perplexed, skeptical, and eventually, overjoyed.
I was with my German friends, walking across then wide, not well-paved, uncommon roads when we saw it coming. In truth, since the Spanish left them well enough alone, the Costa Ricans were content to let the Spanish call them a colony or protectorate or whatever they wanted. Some even joked that they didn’t care about being educated, as long as they were not taxed.
Then the torch came, and behind its carrier, a crowd, apparently from all around the former colony. We are free, they shouted. We are all free.
As the news spread, the Ticos didn’t really know what to make of it. Were these just rabble rousers, or perhaps part of some insidious scheme? But they went to the sheriff in that town and after a few hours in a closed room, they were able to confirm everything.
That day was a day off, an instant drinking party. Those who could afford it brought out their wines, while most humorously watered down their alcohol with coffee (but of course).
In short order I found myself invited into a bar, amd an impromptu drinking party. Dozens of workers, at least those who cared more about partying than managing their fields, were quick to get their buzz, or their kicks, or whatever that Kahlua like concoction that they swilled around was going to give them.
It wasn’t long before I was drowning in sensations. I was high and low and up and down and awake and drowsy and I wasn’t really sure. I was staggering my way off the floor, but couldn’t keep myself still. At that crazy moment, the ticos knew I had had too much, and then they did something crazy.
I was picked up by my limbs and carried to the beach. On the way we sang ridiculous folk songs, making up new lyrics and song parts along the way. We were all drunk I guess, but they clearly had more experience in their crazy coffee rhum mix than I did. With a hearty heave-ho I was thrown into the water, and found myself sinking as they laughed and pointed at me.
It seemed they didn’t throw me that far from the shore, but I found myself drifting away, far from the light and back into the darkness. It wasn’t long before I made my way back to a more modern, comfortable, if less interesting, reality.
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