Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies
During my sophomore spring, I studied abroad on the Costa Rica program. I received a travel enrichment grant to research on Calypso which is a type of music and dance. There were a few obstacles I encountered when I arrived in Costa Rica that hindered me from doing what I had initially planned for my research. I carried out my research closer to the end of the Costa Rica program, and traveled to Puerto Viejo and Limon. In San Jose, I often met with an Afro-Caribbean dance instructor who taught at the Taller Nacional de Danza (National Dance Company), where I also enrolled in dance classes. He was from Limon, and was an amazing resource.
As soon as I arrived in Puerto Viejo, I dove straight into my investigation, but I realized that gathering information for my research there was not as effective or easy as I envisioned it would be. I realized that one of the reasons was because the older generation, who were a lot more familiar with Calypso and whom I needed information from the most, were very small in number, and they weren't very enthusiastic about talking to me about the topic or in general, especially because I was a foreigner. I sensed some hostility towards tourists coming to that area. My perception was that although tourists brought in money for the community, many locals (especially of the older generation) felt bitter and angry towards them. This was not something I was perplexed or surprised by because I have knowledge of the history of colonization and slavery in the Afro-Caribbean context, but also from local standpoints which is deeply powerful. I got the impression I was imposing by asking questions, of which they did not seem as comfortable to respond or talk about. I was very enthusiastic about the topic and had the desire to find out more, but the responses I received did not share the same sentiment. This was one of the downfalls of carrying out the research in Puerto Viejo. Also, being in a very small place with many tourists, I found it difficult to find enough people to ask questions to on the subject, especially finding older people (which I was already notified by other people, that they knew more about the music and dance than the younger generation). Many of my interviewers asked a lot of questions about the research and what it was for, which was completely valid, but at times, it was asked in a very suspicious or condescending manner.
The trip to Limon was really productive. The Afro-Caribbean dance teacher, who lives in Limon but teaches in San Jose, invited me to his house so I could talk to him more about my research. I took a video of him demonstrating Calypso dance, and he also played CD's of Calypso music during my stay there. He mentioned that Calypso is very much about music, drums and culture. He explained that aside from the history of Calypso, and the importance of the political and social messages, Calypso is very much for the enjoyment, pleasure of it all, and to be able to dance and laugh. With a new generation, comes a new movement, specifically how now it's more for an enjoyment. He explained how there has been a shift in musical taste where the younger generation are talking more about reggaeton and reggae rather than Afro-Caribbean music such as Calypso. There is a lack of knowledge and understanding of Calypso in this day and age. He stated, that the years of Calypso, were the years of the grandparents, during the 50's and 60's. However, in the last 15 years, he said, there have been presentations, events, and an interest in universities to develop awareness of a part of Afro-Caribbean music.
I have more information that I acquired from my trips to Puerto Viejo and Limon. On the whole, I definitely enjoyed doing my research and am grateful for what I learned along the way. I not only got to explore on the topic of Calypso, but in addition, I gained greater knowledge of another culture, reflected on different mentalities and feelings, and questioned and thought about global and local issues. An example is when tourists go to relax in these holiday paradises they subconsciously affect the local community. They are unaware of the fact that there are serious economic and social issues present under their nose within the local community. These are things that I have been discussing in my global studies classes and it is so interesting that I could apply all I learned from having done this research into what I have read and talked about in my classes. I was also fortunate to meet and talk to a great deal of remarkable people, as well as practice my Spanish. I am forever grateful to have been given the opportunity to carry out this research project.