Our house in San Jose is let to a lady from Nicaragua who runs a restaurant in the front porch and erstwhile garage while harbouring an ever growing number of family members and dogs in the house itself. This has involved making alterations, but she has respected the fabric and style of the house in every respect. You could remove her alterations and the house would be just as it was.
She rang Leo yesterday to discuss a problem.
The house next door is of the same style and date as our own…but totally bastardised inside by a trendy designer to turn it into a nest of rooms to let with a communal kitchen and bathroom
Over the years there have been a variety of tenants….
When we used the house ourselves there was the man learning the trombone….who started to practice at ten at night when he returned from work. He was finally silenced when the owner of the music school in the next street – which began classes at eight in the evening – complained that he was putting off his pupils and persuaded the owner of the house not to renew his contract.
According to the lady now occupying the house there have been, variously, a man practising karaoke in the early hours – which set her dogs barking – and a bright spark who tapped into her water pipes, not to speak of the nude sunbather on the upper floor balcony and the young lady who threw her baby’s soiled disposable nappies into ‘our’ garden on the grounds that it was an ecological crime to flush them down the loo.
Remonstrances addressed to the owner of the next door property – a big wheel in the cultural world – were met with the cry that all his tenants came from good families…which was why, we supposed, that they were living alone in bed sitters, the good families being unable to appreciate nocturnal trombone music or the hurling of nappies.
Furthermore, the karaoke artiste was complaining that the barking upset his concentration…could we not control our tenants…or, rather telling, could we not control our Nicaraguan tenants?
And there was the nub. There is a tremendous prejudice in Costa Rica against Nicaraguans.
‘They come here to sponge off the health service…they work black for little or no pay, cutting out Costa Ricans….they are a bunch of thieves…violent…drug traffickers…’, you’ve heard it all wherever prejudice rules, but it was upsetting to come across the same gravy from someone involved the world of culture, where tolerance should be the norm and is, indeed, demanded.
Our tenant came to Costa Rica with the idea that she would earn enough money to buy a house in her home town for her mother and see her secure. She went through all the immigration procedures and is fully legal here. So well has she done that she has not just her mother’s house, but another house alongside to rent out, earned by honest work and self denial.
She always thought that she would return to Nicaragua to enjoy the fruits of her labours, but with the current state of civil war there she has had to revise her views. A member of her husband’s family has been shot by thugs in the pay of the Ortega government…others in the family are short of food and petrol and though she would like to go to them to help them, there is no reliable public transport, nor any way of sending food parcels…
Her mother, on a visit to her, is beside herself with worry about the family…but there is no way that she can go back there as things stand.
So, with a business to run and family members to look after, the last thing she needs is a problem with the owner of the house next door but, as she said, there are some things which you just can’t ignore…
There has been a shake up of occupants….the owner is now letting the rooms to members of the performing arts fraternity – so at least there is no more karaoke. However, there are other problems.
The tenants tend to enter late and have rowdy parties into the early hours…not ideal for the children in her family. Polite requests to keep the noise down are met with the response that if she doesn’t like it, she can go back to Nicaragua.
So much for tolerance from the performing arts fraternity.
Then, very nastily, they have accused her of homophobia…being an ignorant ‘Nica’.
Two of the male tenants are decidedly camp, it appears, and they have accused her of being afraid that they will corrupt her children.
As she says, she has neither said nor thought anything of the kind, though the men concerned are wide of their mark if they think that being accused of homophobia will harm her reputation in one of the last central barrios of San Jose to maintain its traditional working class character, despite the burgeoning number of lawyers’ offices and a stained glass workshop.
Costa Rican society in general is not particularly accepting of what it regards as deviation from the norms – as witness the alarming success of the Evangelical candidate in the Presidential elections who stood on a platform of ‘family values’ – and I can safely say that it will be a long time before a transgender loo makes its appearance in that particular barrio. Even in the stained glass workshop.
But the last straw came about when one of the female tenants decided to introduce the area to performance art. Either that or she was as gassed as a Ne’erday tinker.
There is a large junior school over the road and mothers meeting their children tend to come to the restaurant for soft drinks and cakes before going home. This was the moment when the ‘artiste’ emerged from her house and began to dance in the road…nude but for tassels on each nipple and a tiny sequinned cache-sex.
She is, apparently, built on a generous scale and made quite a sight as she whirled and pranced, bawling encouragement to passers-by to join her.
The which, apparently, they did not. Reactions varied from legging it from the scene before wives heard of it and made unwelcome accusations – it is a small world in that barrio – to catcalls from taxi drivers and the lady from the greengrocers calling her a shameless hussy.
Meanwhile, as you might imagine, the restaurant was full of children asking ‘Mum, why is that lady…etc’.
I don’t know whether the said lady stopped of her own accord or whether she was persuaded to desist but my tenant is clear.
Enough is enough.
She can do what she likes in the privacy of her room…but not in the street to frighten the taxi drivers.
And no, gentlemen, I do not have a photograph.