Encouraging Innocence Abroad in Nicaragua and Costa Rica
When I survey the landscape of websites offering information about Central America, I'm struck, as are many other people, at the tendency for misrepresentation.
To some extent, we expect that from real estate sites, and that is why an intelligent researcher surveying Central America as a place to live would not rely solely on real estate sites. He would also go find sites that appear to be community sites - to find all the posts by people with diverse opions.
You can read some about this with regards to Costa Rica (mostly) and Nicaragua (a little) in the comments of one post here describing inconsistent standards with regards to censorship of crime threads. You can read more if you visit the Yahoo Group http://groups.yahoo.com/group/crimeincr/.
This morning I read about the exasperating experiences of a newcomer to Nicaragua here in one page, here in another page, and here in a final page. What a day! To some extent, I feel sorry for the guy (we can give thanks he hasn't been hurt worse). He had been reading an apparently nonbiased but actually highly biased version of Nicaragua from his one source - nicaliving. I admit, I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about that particular website, as I also was a sucker to its inaccurate portrayal of Nicaragua when I first came to Central America five years ago. What a shame for the people who try to run that website - what must it be like to see people that buy your story and move to a dangerous country like Nicaragua then robbed and murdered like Lemon Grove, slaughtered like Ken Kinzel, assaulted with weapons in Managua taxis like Jeremy Harrison-Smith, or subject to the farce of Nicaraguan justice like Eric Volz. Even if people like Phil Hughes (nicaliving's owner) do not admit it in public, they must privately be fully aware of what their misrepresentations have led to.
The postings on nicaliving that I linked to in the beginning of the previous paragraph perhaps are simply part of the learning experience of someone coming to Nicaragua, perhaps. Maybe eventually, it is possible to live more safely there. That's optimistic. But even in that optimistic case, that is an education that might cost nicaliving poster Doug as much as an elite U.S. college, and might cost him his life or optimism.
I wrote previously to the owner of the Nicaliving website several months ago: ...by your treatment of the subject over the past two years, you have entirely lost the connection to what behaviors those were, and what behaviors those weren't, that don't work in Nicaragua. The behaviors that don't work in Nicaragua are to place too much trust in locals, to be optimistic at all economically of even breaking even using honest business relations, to believe that the same societal rules apply to locals and foreigners, to live alone, to stay outside in the countryside past late afternoon, and to place disproportionate hope in the mantra that being generous, open and kind to locals will be reciprocated by them.
The Nicaliving website, indeed, by its censorship, banning, acceptance of harassment and libel, has made a marketing stunt of its representation of Nicaragua, indeed has become the Sandinista apologists described by gueguense. Another different Nicaragua website competing with nicaliving, therealnicaragua.com, at least correctly identifies the perversity of the Orteguistas, but the posters are mostly residents of the southern U.S. who have never lived in Nicaragua and never will and fail to understand that the Ortegas are the epitomy of Nicaraguan culture, not something apart from it.
So what choices do we have, as website owners and participants? In a recent email quoted by Frank on crimeincr, he writes to the list-owner of the CostaRicaLiving Yahoo Group:
On Oct 27, 2008 you sent me an offline "Message not approved" e-mail, which
contained the following sentence.
"I don´t think it´s hard to get people to admit there´s a crime problem, but as
you say ¨you love CR¨..me, too, but if I were reading these threads I wouldn´t
have come here. I think balance is also important." (the key part of this is I
don´t think it´s hard to get people to admit there´s a crime problem)
I believe this shows the whole philosophy of CRL. Do you realize that you
are inferring that on this "open" forum we should downplay vital information
about crime just to keep the people coming. You try to justify your position by
using words like general crime bitching, complaining, boring, repetative &
unproductive. I'm sure that Henry & Robyn would appreciate this discription of
what has happened to them. It doesn't seem matter if the people already here are
safe & secure. Nor does it seem to matter if those seeking an idea of what life
in Costa Rica may be like are given uncensored information from the entire
group on all subjects.
Indeed, by telling the truth, we are very likely to discourage many people from coming to Central America at all. But at least we can sleep at night.
I want to end by simply stating - there are formidable challenges for any publishers of information to overcome - what is opinion, what is fact, the interests of the owners, the values of the owners, the assumptions of the owners and publishers. They become even more complicated in online forums when so many different contributors are involved. If you are researching living in Central America, do so carefully, considering the interests of the people whose posts you are reading. And if you do read public community forums (like this one!), make sure to do a careful investigation of whether censorship is occurring in the sources you are reading, because there may be a lot of information you are missing due to its being censored by the moderators of your chosen forums. Write to some of the more skeptical members of those groups personally, and ask them. Ask the owners of those sites what the site's policy and history is with censorship and banning posters.
Now that you've heard it, it's your responsibility to follow up on it. Good luck!
ps No offense intended for Mark Twain: I'm sure that everything in your book was entirely accurate ;)