March 25, 2008

Something Something Superstar

(This was written in the evening on Sunday, which happened to be Easter)
Many people from the U.S. have been asking me recently what Easter is like in Costa Rica. This is my first Easter here, since I was in Colorado last year for the holiday (once again, I had to renew that stupid Costa Rican visa). In any case, I can report on a few things about Easter in Costa Rica.
First of all, the bulk of the Easter observance is during the so-called Semana Santa, or Holy Week. For many places in Latin America, this means a whole week of vacation, sort of like a religiously-tinged spring break. Many people go on trips, and some people, instead of going to the beach to flash their tits, stay in their own town to flash their rosaries at church, if you know what I mean (I mean “show religious piety and devotion”). In Costa Rica, though, most people don’t seem to have a full week of vacation (unless you’re a school kid, those lucky little rats). The company where I work is even less observant, seeing as it’s an American company that still needs to provide customer support service to American customers around the clock. In other words, when you call from the U.S. to complain about your credit card bill or broken cell phone charger, you make it so that Costa Ricans don’t get to stay home during national holidays.
But hey! I got Thursday and Friday off, so who cares about those losers answering the phones? Since we don’t directly attend phone calls as part of our job, all the English teachers in my department were given Thursday and Friday off. Thursday and Friday are called Jueves Santo and Viernes Santo, although they’re both etymologically unrelated to the legendary Santo, the famed Mexican Lucha Libre wrestler. It’s debatable how holy either Thursday or Friday actually are, but I can tell you that most of the stores were closed, at least.
Theoretically, the stores are closed on Holy Thursday and Friday so that people can stay home and pray, and then walk to church to pray some more. Evidently, in the past it was seen as very disrespectful to even drive a car in those days. But, those days seem to be fading quickly. In Berlín, many people went to masses, but Angela and I aren’t the most avid churchgoers. Angela stays away because she was forced to go as a child and also hates how the only reason most people go is to gossip and backbite, and I also generally sleep in on Sundays because I’m not Catholic, I probably wouldn’t understand Spanish mass, and I’m not even 100% sure that churches here do their thing on Sunday morning, anyhow. But, we pray and believe in God and all that, so at least we’re not the biggest bitches on the block. This all, by the way, is just a bit of background information, to help set the stage.
Now, the biggest difference here is that Easter…well, it seems to be missing. I know that in some places around the globe, people bitch and moan about the commercialization or even “Americanization” of holidays. In many countries, a gringo Santa Claus is replacing a Christ Child or Saint Nicholas as the bearer of gifts at Christmas, and Valentine’s Day seems to be increasingly prominent and stupid throughout the world. But Easter here? I expected at least something along the lines of, “Well, HERE we think about the TRUE meaning of Easter, and we don’t celebrate using that Great Satan Easter Bunny with his heathen ability to lay eggs.” But, I got nothing like that. In fact, I got nothing at all. Today is Easter Sunday, and my whole family was gathered in Colorado to celebrate Easter, my aunt Kathy’s birthday, and my birthday (I’m informed that they ate cake and ice cream for me…really, thanks a lot, guys).
In any case, since my birthday was last week, they called to wish me a belated happy birthday, and everyone I talked to on the phone asked me what we were going to do for Easter. Something like, “I don’t suppose they hide Easter eggs, but what DO they do to celebrate? They’re pretty religious down there, right?” Well, they don’t really do anything. I was out of things to do earlier today, so I went to the internet café—which was closed Thursday and Friday but open Saturday and Easter Sunday—and worked on putting pictures up on www.ryansitzman.com . We also went to Angela’s parents’ house to eat dinner, but we do that every Sunday night, Easter or not. I even noticed that on page 13 or so of the national paper, it mentioned that today was the “Sunday of the Resurrection,” but that was about the only Easter name-dropping I heard the whole week.
So what gives? I might be treading on shaky theological ground here, but it seems that if you have a religion that is literally entirely based on the idea that your lord and savior was raised from the dead, then you should probably recognize that idea somehow. But instead, the entire focus is on the betrayal (Thursday) and crucifixion (Friday) of Jesus Christ. The papers, news, and local chat were filled with descriptions of passion plays throughout the country, and many even carried around living “Jesuses” tied to crosses to make it “more realistic.” And apparently, many people were praying. Now, it might be a good thing that people are at home praying for a day or two, but in my opinion, it shouldn’t be out of shame or remorse. I have heard of so-called “Catholic Guilt” before, and although the people I’ve talked to in the last few days haven’t seemed particularly culpable, I can still easily see how such a phenomenon could arise.
It kinda makes me think of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar (but in a way, everything does these days). That musical is entirely focused on the last few weeks of Jesus’ life, as well as his crucifixion. And the Resurrection? Well, maybe it’s in the director’s cut, because it’s sure not in the movie. In that way, Berlín, Costa Rica is kinda like an Andrew Lloyd Weber musical from a parallel universe. I’m not trying to specifically promote Christianity or the Resurrection or anything here, but I’ve still been waiting for someone—anyone—to say something—anything—about their religion maybe mentioning something about a guy who came back from the dead, but I just haven't heard it. I know that religion is a deeply personal thing for many people, but I feel that many people call themselves Christians here, but only because that’s what their family has always practiced, and they’ve never taken the time to think about whether it’s right or true for them. And for me, the idea that habit or custom can so easily act as a replacement for conviction or actual thought is what really drives me crazy.
People of Costa Rica! People of the world! Hear my words! You must be passionate (no pun intended) for something or show conviction for something, and not just go through the motions because it’s what you’ve always done!
So sure, call it a bastardization or even blasphemy, but bring on the Easter Bunny! Bring on the Cadbury eggs! Bring on the scrambled egg and sausage casserole and annoying personal questions from the family! All those things may not be the “true meaning of Easter,” but for me they represent “Easter,” and at least they mean something to me. And if, during the day, I pause in my sugar buzz to consider that around 2,000 years ago, a man may have come back from the dead, then at least we’re getting somewhere.

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2 comments:

loopy said...

yes, i agree. weird indeed.

i think it is that they're so fixated on the sad suffering part, and identify with that so completely they're not ready to give it up by having Christ rise from the dead yet. maybe they're waiting until they win the World Cup or something.

Sitzman said...

Well, if they wait for Costa Rica to win a World Cup, that may well take another 2000 years.