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Ethnographic Interview of the Costa Rican People Essay

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Updated: Dec 19th, 2021


The analysis of the social environment is the important aspect of realizing the cultural background and the social problems of the clients. Thus, this research will help understand the requirements and problems of the clients, which influence their decisions and considerations. The interviewed person is a Costa Rican female, a mental health worker in New York City, who does not speak Spanish. In general, her job is close to social work considering her salary, nevertheless, it is one of a few opportunities to earn her living. Her ethnic background is the Spanish and Latin American immigrants, who moved to the USA in the late 1940s.

Originally, she may be regarded as a middle-class citizen of the US community, as she does not have the higher education, and is paid a minimal salary, required to survive in New York City. In the light of this statement, it should be emphasized that there is an increasing crowding and the demand for the public health facilities, where the interviewee works, and the fact is that these demands are essentially higher in comparison with the governmental allocations for these spheres.

Nevertheless, the street life, the increasing poverty level, and the neighborhood activities, associated with the street life and poverty, give the sense of community and the common effort of overcoming the possible difficulties, as well as the preservation of the ethnic values and traditions within these immigrant communities. Thus, it should be emphasized that the ethnographic interview with this person will be mainly aimed at disclosing her living habits and the ethical values, she aims to preserve. Moreover, she will be asked about her job, and the entire interview will be regarded through the prism of social problems, attributable to immigrant living. The most burning problem for her community is the increasing poverty.

Cultural Guide

The cultural background of the interviewee entails the traditions and customs of the immigrant community, as well as the ethnic traditions of the Costa Rican people. Originally, the aspects of increasing poverty make the preservation of cultural traditions more complex. Nevertheless, people work, live, entertain and the feeling of community makes them stronger. Initially, there is a strong necessity to ask the respondent to describe her typical working day:

We, as mental health workers are obliged to provide special services and care for people with mental health difficulties. Thus, my working day is full of concerns, worries, and cares, as most of these people are not able to take care of themselves. Often, there is no break, and the whole day is spent caring for and serving the patients of the medical center. Originally, clients of the mental health centers experience mild to moderate mental health problems, consequently, the main task of the workers is to help these clients in their everyday activities. The skills, which are required for working with such patients, are anxiety management, cognitive behavior therapy, and problem-solving treatment.

Additionally, we are often involved in teamwork, and GP practices are common for us. We are recruited to help people, thus, various backgrounds are welcomed, and the average working day presupposes psychological help, nursing, social work, etc. Moreover, there are whales of paperwork, which is exhausting and too demanding. I like working with people, and I feel important, but when I have to fill in all the papers and forms, I become mad.

The working day and the cultural environment of the respondent reveal the fact, that coping with everyday difficulties is not a simple task, especially considering the growing poverty level. The fact is that the new coming immigrants, who originate from developing countries increase the number of unemployed people, and thus, the crime rates are also growing.

In the country, where I was born, crime and poverty are closely linked with each other, nevertheless, people resort to crime in an extreme situation, as the successors of conquistadors never resort to crime. The fact is that most people have forgotten that nobleness is valued more than the temporary benefits of its lack, so, we aim to preserve this in our community.

The investigation of the cultural background is closely linked with researching the personal attitude of a person towards the culture of the country he or she is living in. Thus, the respondent was offered some questions about it, and her response was full of sorrow.

As we are talking about culture and the aspect of poverty, my impression claims that citizens of the USA are wealthy enough from the financial perspective, nevertheless, the country with a long history and instances of courage, wisdom, and victories is losing the sense of self-respect, as people stopped reading classical literature, they steadily forget their history. Originally, this may be regarded as one of the reasons for the growing crime rates.

The cultural guide part presupposes the definition of the cultural background of the person, thus, there is a strong necessity to give the word to the respondent, for she could explain her self-definition and the attitude towards cultural groups.

I do not consider myself as an immigrant or a visitor in the USA, as I live here, I work here, I help American citizens in the mental health center. Nevertheless, I can not feel myself as an American, as I have a different cultural background in comparison with the people I meet every day. On the one hand, they are the same, on the other hand, most of them feel superior, and it should be emphasized that the sub-cultural category, which I belong to, is something average between an immigrant and a citizen, despite the fact, that most of my life I have been working in the USA. I live here, in the open community with other Hispanics, and we feel, that the sense of community is one of the few senses that allow us to survive and endure all the difficulties.

As for the matters of religion, we are mainly religious people, as we have to be kind to each other, help each other to overcome difficulties. Originally, it is difficult to stay human without belief in our hearts.

The other aspects of cultural background may be estimated by asking indirect questions, as people often disregard such aspects as assimilation, attitude towards family and sexual life, and sexual minorities. Religious people often do not welcome gender minorities, nevertheless, most of them realize that it is not their fault, as homosexuality is an inborn psychological violation. Thus, the interviewee revealed the tolerant attitude towards sexual minorities, realizing that they are also people and have the right to work, rest, and adequate human life.

Mental health issues touch the respondent deeply, as her grandfather had been suffering from dementia, so, she preferred working as a mental worker because of that disease to help other people overcome their difficulties and feel that they are not abandoned.

Socioeconomic status is one of the most difficult aspects of the interview, from the communicative perspective. Originally, the respondent told enough on the matters of her position and the poverty in the district; nevertheless, it should be stated that the real position requires in-depth analysis, basing on her behavior and the values of her everyday life. Thus, she told the following:

In everyday life, we often have to save money and shorten our expenses, as earning the minimum salary is the price for staying useful for the surrounding people. I often have to go to bed with an empty stomach, especially if I meet homeless children. I got used to sharing my dinner with them, that is why I often have to stay hungry, and they tell me their stories instead, which impress me, and I feel entertained, and inspired by their stories. Thus, I have an opportunity to observe poverty and homelessness within children almost every day and try to analyze it from the perspective of my education and life position. The socio-economic position is a bit higher, in comparison with the other members of the immigrant community, nevertheless, I often feel equal to them. This is the only way to overcome the feeling of loneliness.


Originally, the narrations by the interviewee do not differ from the actual situation essentially. The fact is that all the thoughts and stories which seem naïve and far from reality are close to the truth, as the aspect of self-identity for Costa Ricans is one of the most important aspects of their life. Originally, they often aim to live in close communities and share sorrows and success. It is normal for them to share their food with children, independently whether these children are members of their community or just homeless children from somewhere else. The aspects of their self-identity are described by Flores (2005, p. 195):

Costa Ricans as a group in the United States continues to have a concrete connection to the people of Costa Rico. A strong indicator of the Costa Rican identity of Stateside Costa Ricans is their use of the Spanish language. Most Costa Rican Americans speak English as well as Spanish. In New York, they make up the largest American multi-lingual population.

Nevertheless, even though identity is one of the key aspects for them, some do not speak Spanish, like our respondents, and have never been to Costa Rico, as they were born in the USA. Originally, they just aim to stay together independently at their place of birth, as they all feel themselves Costa Ricans and believe that they will be able to succeed in life only by staying together.

The socio-economic position of the Costa Rican community is mainly poor, as most of them do not have higher education. Some are living illegally on the territory of the USA, thus, they do not have an opportunity to get a highly paid job. This is also the reason for the increased crime rates, poverty, and homelessness. As it is emphasized by Helmuth (2005, p. 415):

Studies and reports over the last fifty years or so have documented the high poverty status of this community. However, the picture of Stateside Costa Ricans at the start of the 21st century also reveals significant socioeconomic progress and a community with growing economic power.

Nevertheless, poverty stays at high levels. This is closely associated with the difficulties in getting a higher education by Costa Ricans, as most do not have an opportunity to attend schools because of the disastrous situation with schools in immigrant communities. Independently on the self-identity and friendly relations within the community, the Costa Rican community is the worst from the perspective of education (Dohm, 2007), as they start working from an early age, and rarely attend schools.

Our respondent was lucky enough, as her parents wished her to get the education, and insisted that she attended a school. Nevertheless, she failed her entrance exams in the university, and her education ended with the nursing and psychology courses. Thus, she works as a mental worker in one of the centers in New York City.

Another aspect that should be analyzed is the poverty within the Costa Rican community. Originally, the poverty rate of the Costa Rican community (27,6%) is much larger than the rates of other ethnic groups in the USA. It is exceeded only by the Dominican community, which is 29 percent. The root of this problem has been already defined, and by Riffe, Turner, and Rojas-Guyler (2008, p. 101), the following statement should be emphasized:

Costa Ricans of the community has been associated with problems faced by communities with persistently high poverty levels. Some have characterized them as part of the urban underclass in the United States. Nevertheless, while except for Dominicans, Stateside Costa Ricans have almost the highest poverty rates of any group in the United States, over three quarters live above the poverty line. This rate is also about half the poverty rate of Costa Rico in 2000 of 85.6 percent.

Thus, the comparison of the real facts with the narrations revealed the actual ethnic background of the Costa Rican community and the cultural guide for the clients-representatives of this community.

Clinical-Community Concerns

Originally, the concerns are closely associated with the crime rates within the community, as the high poverty rates can not be imagined without crime. Thus, the social workers should be accurate and careful while working on the territories of Costa Rican communities.

Nevertheless, most of the people are friendly and open to communication. This was particularly emphasized by the respondent, and the interview, in general, flowed in a friendly and light manner, as Costa Ricans are mainly open and communicative people. Moreover, it should be stated that the necessity to be careful is also associated with the behavior of social workers, as they should be friendly and open to cooperation. The fact is that these people accurately feel the soul and thoughts of their guests and collocutors, thus, any prejudice should be left, as people will feel it immediately. Decades of leaving within the other immigrant, almost separated from the other people taught them to feel like strangers at a distance.

Reference List

Dohm, K. (2007). Ana Y. Ramos-Zayas, National Performances: The Politics of Class, Race, and Space in Costa Rican Chicago. The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, 41(1), 113.

Flores, J. (2005). From Bomba to Hip-Hop: Costa Rican Culture and Latino Identity. New York: Columbia University Press.

Helmuth, C. (2005). Culture and Customs of Costa Rica. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Riffe, H. A., Turner, S., & Rojas-Guyler, L. (2008). The Diverse Faces of Latinos in the Midwest: Planning for Service Delivery and Building Community. Health and Social Work, 33(2), 101.

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