Costa Rica will leave Nicaraguan immigrants without a place to meet
Social and environmental specialists in Costa Rica, without daring to classify it as a discriminatory measure, consider the San José municipality’s decision to convert La Merced Park into a plaza and underground parking, an “attack on the current use of this public space”; With this, the thousands of Nicaraguans residing in that country will be stripped of their popular meeting point, who will have to find a new meeting place.
“The architecture in which this plaza will be designed will very much be one of the functions of that mausoleum… it will salvage the essential elements of national history and the characters that have given meaning to the exclusivity of Costa Rica,” said Johnny Araya, Mayor of San Jose. When announced, the $4.5 million project promoted by the Costa Rica Moresta Academy.
Although the project appeared in 2019 – as an option to solve the problem of the lack of parking in the capital of Costa Rica – it can still be implemented so far.
Braulio Carrillo Park, better known as La Merced, could become a mausoleum. The remains of former president Juan Rafael Mora Porras and generals Jose Joaquín Mora and Jose Maria Cañas will remain there. Below the said square, a two-level car park will also be built with a total capacity of 400 vehicles; And that, according to specialists, they should not be built because they are not needed.
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Without technical or social justification
“There is no justification at the level of technical or social study, so I think if a lot of effort is made to drive out these (Nicaragua) residents who use it, it could be inconvenient for people of the municipality or certain groups. I think if it was implemented, it would have an important impact. In terms of cleaning between quotes, within the city of San Jose,” says Gustavo Adolfo Jiménez, a social researcher at the University of Costa Rica.
Andrea San Gil, co-founder of the Global Alliance for Informal Transport (GPIT), without knowing the details of the project, also considers it unnecessary given that there is currently an oversupply of parking in San Jose.
“The data tells us that at least municipal car parks, which are those on cantonal roads, that is, on the street, have an occupancy of only 12 percent. In other words, they are used very little throughout the day,” says Saint-Gilles.
The environmental specialist says there is little or no information on areas where “public parking is used more, because it is in fact private”. So, he doesn’t understand why these vehicular spaces are really prevalent. For now, the trend should be to discourage car park construction; and its places, creating green spaces and promoting the use of public transportation and other more environmentally friendly modes of transportation.
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New spaces for Nicaraguans?
Jimenez explains that this is not the first time that such decisions have been made in Costa Rica regarding public spaces. Before it was done with Plaza de la Cultura, Central Park, Student Walk and others. None of them worked according to the people using them. But to limit the use of public places, that is, to control them, so that there are no long stays, but circulation.
The sociologist considers La Merced Park to be very important to Nicaraguans living in Costa Rica, as this has historically been a meeting point with family, friends or citizens. There they meet to talk about what is happening in their country or to eat traditional foods or make cultural exchanges; None of this is evaluated in project studies.
“The cost benefit of the project is simply addressed at the beginning. Even if we see the project feasibility report, it does not contain important details in terms of sustainable mobility being promoted in cities. Instead, it encourages the use of cars, so that more cars enter the city, With this discourse, this meeting space of the Nicaraguan people is simultaneously removed,” says the Costa Rican sociologist.
For Jiménez, the project is not justified in terms of culture or sustainable mobility. He believes that when it comes to fruits, it will bring about a transformation in the city. But it will also force Nicaraguans to look for new places to meet.
In statements to the Costa Rican media, some users of La Merced park are already considering new options, including meeting in the park of the Ministry of Health, Central or La Sabana, although they are currently closed due to the pandemic.
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Expulsion or expropriation of its old users
“There will be movement to other areas. But this would be like exile or expropriation of a space they have historically used. The justification is that the park is outdated and does not meet the standards of a 21st century city. But under this standard, the project can be developed in any park in the city of San Jose,” says Jimenez.
For the sociologist, the underground car park should not be implemented because it does not conform to the new trends; Regarding the shrine, he sees that the users of that space should be consulted, and how they see it should be changed.
For its part, Saint-Gilles is of the opinion that if 400 underground parking lots are built, a similar amount of rooftop parking should be removed. This would benefit the city, because other uses could be allotted to these lands; Including green spaces, bike paths, etc. She insists the logic should be that if a parking lot is to be built, it should be for the benefit of the city.
Saint-Gilles does not want to think that the aim of the project is to expel the immigrants who historically used this space as a meeting point, but acknowledges that there are other spaces where it would be appropriate to build an underground car park. She hopes that people take pressure into account when making decisions about the use of spaces, so that it is in everyone’s best interest.