Sunday, April 25, 2010

"Pueblo pequeño, infierno grande"

"Small town, big hell", many people say in small towns in Costa Rica. While most Costa Ricans I know live in small towns on purpose, nearly all admit that the chisme--or gossip--can be relentless. I learned this firsthand. (Although, luckily, for nothing bad.) It was hard to do much of anything in my rural village of 250 people, or "in town" where about 6,000 people lived, without everyone knowing about it. It might sound pretty harmless, but if you are betting on spending a lifetime in one of these towns, the pressure to maintain healthy relationships and at least a guise of a respectable lifestyle (however your neighbors define it) can be a lot to handle. That's not to say that you have to be perfect, but any slip-up can be committed to public memory for a good part of your life. So, things you do--good, bad, and otherwise--tend to make their way back to you. It's a haunting concept for some, a kind of surveillance from which there is no escaping.

Anyway, small towns have a lot of the same problems as big cities--and verse visa--but only in a small town can a large percentage of the population be privy to your most intimate personal details (or at least have their own version of them). The end result is the perception that sometimes it is a "big hell". However, for most rural folk, these moments simply come with the territory of living in a pleasant, otherwise relaxing place.