The Performing Arts

plaza viquez

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.

escuela de chile

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.



39 thoughts on “The Performing Arts”

  1. Helen, you have the best stories of anyone I know and of any blog I follow. We all live in a crazy world, these days, but your corner of it is super-crazy. Please never move. What would we all so for comic relief?

  2. Where people exist it seems that prejudice must reign. What is particularly sad is to read that a place which I would naïvely have imagined might resist is in fact rife with this ignorant suspicion and bullying. And worse. That people who are involved in the arts (performing no less) who historically are assumed to be amongst the most liberal are up for some persecution of a woman purely because of her heritage. And even worse that amongst the stone-throwers are Gay men who presumably feel quite persecuted themselves on occasion. All be it that their tactics are to put the spotlight on themselves – quel surprise! Shame. On. Them. How on earth you sort a knotty problem like this I do not know. But I do thank you for the quite boggling mental image of Madame La La shaking her copious booty and mostly for the image of the men running for the hills lest they get a frying pan round their heads at a later date. I wish your lovely Nicaraguan lady great strength and hope that what seems insolvable may prove a little less hopeless. The Bean, who is embarrassingly prejudiced against white fluffy dogs and should also know better since she gets many rude remarks from wise guys who ask ‘what IS that – some kind of rodent’ and other such insufferable and highly unfunny things, will gladly head south to add her fly-weight to the cause.

    1. I think that the mere sight of The Bean would have the next doors jumping up on the furniture She might just grab a tassel and hang on
      I was horrified by the attitude shown by the two men…..our tenant is worth fifty of them…but it is an echo of he attitude of the owner, unfortunately, who has not come out as gay here…but has in Mexico where he spends a great deal of time. Hypocrite.
      I wish I had seen the spectacle, though..and so does Leo!

  3. What a great story and obviously a true one at that, it certainly gave me a huge smile imaging the scene. On the other hand, I would not have been impressed if I had been at the restaurant with children……..
    I will never tire of your posts.
    Take care both of you and have a good weekend. Diane

    1. No, I would not have been impressed either. Our tenant is going to speak to the school head in order to put a bit more pressure on the owner, which I think is a good idea.
      But it must have been quite a sight…!

  4. I am dismayed and more. But why? I have seen artist friends leave their tolerance on the field and transform into the worst bigot, charlatan, on the other side of the gate, beyond the pale. Step in and out of the free spirit suit. Actually only one “friend”, and my heart remains broke.

    1. Aren’t they just! You should see those in the atrium!
      This house and the one next door were the first proper houses to be built in this barrio, which was then low lying scrubland. It was colonised by people fleeing the results of the earthquake which destroyed most of Cartago in1910 and the name of the first owner is still on the front door.

  5. The company you keep may provide entertaining stories, but I’d imagine they also provide innumerable headaches. I could do with fewer “characters” in the world and a little more civility. When I read a media profile fawning over somebody who “marches to his own drummer” I see that as a thinly veiled reference to an individual who is self-absorbed or can’t follow rules. It does get tiring if you’re the one who has to deal with these sorts.

    1. Too true! The Neighbour has been relatively quiet lately…which is a relief….but I could do without our tenant in San Jose having problems with these thoughtless people.
      The restraints of a civilised society seem to be disappearing from around us….

  6. I suppose there will always be someone objecting to someone else…c’est la vie. All the same, a large lady twirling tassles? She’s braver than I am.I gave up that lark years ago when the dangers of eye damage were apparent…

    1. The lady would not have been too noticeable at night….you see some strange sights passing through San Jose after dark….but broad daylight was another matter. Probably out to epater la bourgeoisie…..not that there are many of them living round there.

    1. You’d think someone would have taken one…well, someone must have done. But not anyone in the restaurant – unfortunately.
      Mark you, I bet there a few men being asked by their wives what they are smiling about…

  7. Well, I, for one, was hoping for at short video of the artiste’s dance. Actually, I was hoping for a long video in high definition but I didn’t want to get my hopes too high. You make living in San Jose sound so attractive, so interesting, so,uh, diverse. I think I’ll check prices on investment properties.

    1. It is certainly diverse after dark……. and the Gold Museum had an art exhibition which featured videos of tarts on the upmarket streets for those who prefer to take their titillation the easy way. It is art, of course…how could one suppose otherwise…

      My information came through Leo who was taking the telephone call. There were yelps, cries of ‘she didn’t!’…’No!’…’She was wearing what!’ but eventually he gave me the whole picture as related by our tenant.

          1. Eye bleach is a popular term for what one wishes one had after seeing something one wishes one had not. A way to clean an undesirable image out of one’s eyes.

  8. Oh dear, both sad and funny. Poor woman (not the tassel-twirler, the Nicaraguan lady.) You think it’s bad when your neighbour’s child is learning the recorder and their cat poops in your flowerbed, but what she is having to put up with that nonsense and the abuse and intolerance that is really too much. I hope it can be resolved, for her sake and for yours.

    1. I haven’t seen this lot…they are not up and about when I visit in the late morning…but their attitude towards her is disgraceful.
      I was interested that they used homophobia to attack her…that would be a killer in their line of work, but would leave locals cold.
      She understands that they work odd hours so that some noise late at night is inevitable…she just wants them to be reasonable and considerate neighbours.
      Leo will take it up with the owner….again.

    1. If we had known that a spectacle had been planned we would have been down in SJ like a shot…well, Leo and Danilo at any rate!
      I suspect the exhibitionist had had one bottle over the eight and decided to let it all hang out…well, not quite all, luckily.

  9. I am now agog. What are you going to do to persuade her to desist in future?! I know I am laughing, but also, I hope you can help your poor tenant. It is saddening how certain people everywhere in the world, need other people of a different nationality to hate. Here, I believe most people would not have the slightest idea of what makes Nicaraguans and Costa Ricans different from one another.

    1. Especially when Costa Rica’s official line is that the Nicaraguans are ‘our brothers’, a much closer relationship than with the other Central American countries…
      I think the exotic dancer may have had a few too many…but she will prove to be a good bargaining point when discussing the noise nuisance and the racist comments with the owner.

  10. Wherever you live, it’s hard to escape neighbour problems of some sort. For many years we lived in flats and had the usual problems of late-night noise, belligerence etc. Luckily we now live in a detached house and the neighbours aren’t a problem. Likewise, wherever you live there’s prejudice against some group or other. And yes, the so-called liberal middle-classes can be as bad as anyone else. But in this quite sedate neighbourhood I don’t think we’ll be seeing a burly semi-naked woman dancing in the street any time soon.

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