Transnational Spaces: U.S. Expatriates Recreating Home in Costa Rica

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This paper examines transnational migration of U.S. citizens to the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica. It explores their reasons for relocation, transnational practices in the defining and recreating of "home," and perceptions of community. Housing developments, transnational businesses, schools, and private recreational centers are being built and utilized by U.S. expatriates that replicate many of the facilities found in the United States. Yet, as the number of transnational ties and services among the expatriate community grows, so does the socioeconomic stratification between U.S. expatriates and Guanacastecos. Due to language barriers, economic resources, and cultural conceptions of time and space, possibilities for an integrated community are grim. This paper is based upon ethnographic research collected over the span of two years by the researcher while living in Guanacaste as a U.S. expatriate. By weaving together scholarly and popular literature, information gathered from interviews and participant observation, and personal narrative, this study reveals the hopes, contradictions, and negotiations made by U.S. expatriates as a result of living in transnational spaces including their reliance upon nostalgia, privilege, and feelings of belonging in their search for a "better life" in Costa Rica. The inquiry concludes with a compilation of perceptions by both Guanacastecos and U.S. expatriates regarding the future of Guanacaste. Due to the rapid growth coupled with the desire for improved relations by Guanacastecos and U.S. expatriates, suggestions are discussed for creating more permeable and inclusive spaces that foster community.

Keywords: Transnationalism, Costa Rica, Community Studies, Ethnography
Stream: Anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Studies, Humanities
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: Transnational Spaces, Transnational Spaces

Dr. Lisa Porter

Assistant Professor, Cultural Studies Advisor
Sociology Department, Bridgewater College

Bridgewater, Virginia, USA

Dr. Porter received her Ph.D. in Cultural Studies from Claremont Graduate University located in southern California. Her research and teaching interests include transnational migration, ethnography, feminist and critical race theory, and globalization. She recently completed a two-year ethnography on U.S. expatriates living in Costa Rica. Her research has since been used in the creation of a multicultural school and community center in Costa Rica. Dr. Porter is a faculty member in the sociology department at Bridgewater College where she oversees the minor in Cultural Studies.

Ref: I08P0350