Tourism and Change in Costa Rica: Pura Vida, Power and Place in a Small Beach Community
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A vast majority of tourism development in Guanacaste has occurred in the northern coastal region along the Pacific coast (Honey, Vargas and Durham 2010). However, recent development is beginning to move south as developers visualize big returns on early investments. As new tourism development continues to expand in the southern region of the Nicoya Peninsula, small communities are being transformed from small fishing and farming communities to communities heavily reliant on tourism. Playa Azul, a small beach town in the southern region of the Nicoya Peninsula, is one such community. This dissertation utilizes ethnographic fieldwork to examine the impacts of tourism on the daily lives of residents of Playa Azul, particularly looking at how local residents cope with perceived changes to the norms and values of the community as tourism development continues to expand in the area. The penetration of foreign capital into the community is having a transformative effect on community relations, particularly challenging community norms and values. It is my contention that as Playa Azul continues to develop as a primary tourist destination and development continues to expand, the rifts within the community between existing community members (Azuleños, foreign Ticos and lifestyle migrants) and newly arriving “business-oriented” members will continue to grow with it. I argue this has led to subtle forms of resistance among community members as they work to maintain the pura vida “vibe” of the town and the values that support a multicultural community based on humility, acceptance and mutual respect.