La Carpio, North of San José, Costa Rica
La Crapio is one of the most dangerous slum areas in Costa Rica. Homemade weapons and drug trafficking are common. The area is ruled by the heavy hand of drug lords. During our visit here, our security guards were noticeably concerned about protecting us in this area and loaded extra weapons to carry. Locals explained that hearing gun shots in the streets of this neighborhood is common, especially in the evenings. We make sure to get out before evening.
There is one main thoroughfare where most of the commerce occurs and along the road are a variety of colorful stands and makeshift shops. Mary, the woman selling clothes on the street, is 45 and has been selling on this street corner for over a year. She sells clothes on consignment and makes about 5 US dollars a day - just enough for food and basic shelter.
A bad weather day of rain or very high heat and humidity can really hurt business. She likes selling because it gives her the chance to meet and socialize with people in the neighborhood. Mary has three kids in school and has been married to her husband Pedro for 27 years. Pedro, 64, is a Baptist street prophet who preaches about repentance. Pedro and Mary live in a house at the edge of the river and during the rainy season her house suffers from continuous flooding. Mary has no healthcare and suffers from various injuries that resulted from working and living in the area.
Despite her difficult circumstances, Mary keeps working hard in hopes of obtaining a better future for her family. Due to the attacks on delivery trucks in the area, security guards, like William pictured here, are hired by trucking companies to protect their deliveries. Without security guards, trucks refuse to make deliveries inside this dangerous neighborhood. William is 46 years old and acknowledges the high crime rate in the area is caused mostly by the youths. William received two weeks of training on the use of his gun and has been working in this job for 6 months.
Walking down the street you’ll find Marta who sells eggs, fried beans, and tortillas in a wooden shack. She has no home and currently lives in the shop she rents. Marta is originally from Nicaragua, but prefers living in Costa Rica. She is happy and has no problem with the neighborhood except for the occasional gun shots. Her husband died 6 years ago and she has 6 children ages 20 to 33, one of which contracted polio. All she wants from life is good health and food.
Further down the street is nineteen year old girl with a brown striped shirt named Anielca. She is currently a junior in high school and lives with her mother and brother. Anielca also works with her aunt at her mom’s stand selling produce. She likes working because she describes herself as sociable. Anielca is part of a special program at her high school where she is allowed to both study and work. Her favorite subject is history and she would like to continue her education to eventually become a secretary.
Miurell Gonzalez, the lady in red, is a 24 year old entrepreneur who studies system engineering at the Universidad Latina. She already completed her bachelor degree and is currently working towards a law degree. Miurell lived in the area for a short time, and saw an opportunity to provide internet access for the neighborhood. After saving money with her brother, she launched her business which was both profitable and popular with the young people in the neighborhood. She and her brother often study while at the shop and believe they are providing a vital service to this community. She is also concerned about the many gunshots she hears in the streets.
At the end of the street, you’ll find Mayra, a 53 year old Nicaraguan woman who has lived in Costa Rica for 6 years. Mayra lives alone and enjoys the neighborhood because nobody bothers her here. She rents the shack for $60 pesos per month. This operates as her business and home. If you were able to see behind the curtain, you would see her belongings and bed. She has no bathroom, but is thankful to be living in Costa Rica because the people are nice and as she describes, “I don’t have problems with anyone.”