Ticos are still a proud and resilient people but often today their smiling faces are a facade for suffering and deep rooted worries. As little as a generation ago, most were self-sufficient. Today, many families have lost their land in order to pay their bills and are having trouble making ends meet. Tico society is being undermined by both the cruel realities of the outside world, and population pressures from within. The importance of family co-operation can not be over-estimated. Grandparents, aunts and uncles live with and care for the children in large extended families while parents try to make a living, often pooling income from any source in a hand to mouth fashion to pay the bills. Most homes have a color television with rabbit ears but cable is a luxury. With an unexpected windfall, the poorer families on mass are treated to McDonalds.
While some Ticos can afford to send their children to expensive English speaking private schools, others have trouble keeping their family fed. Some drive large new vehicles, others cannot afford bus fare. While some live in spacious new multi-bedroom homes protected by twenty four hour street or even private guards, others live in impoverished barrios fearing for their lives. A child with average intelligence from a wealthy family can go on to university, while a straight A student from the slums cannot afford to continue after age fourteen. It is like being born into the caste system. The richest one percent controls ten percent of the wealth, while the poorest half compete for only twenty percent of the resources. It has been an “old boy’s club” where thirty six of the last forty nine presidents, and an equal proportion of congressmen have come from four original conquistador families. The egalitarian, upwardly mobile tradition no longer exists for all. When given an opportunity to advance, most Ticos aggressively attempt to make the most of it. However for the majority, lacking a higher education, experience and capital renders them destitute.