Welcome to La Carpio

From July 17, 2012

La Carpio is an impoverished immigrant community of  predominantly Nicaraguan residents.  Gail Nystrom is the director of the Costa Rican Foundation and my primary contact for research within the immigrant community.  On July 17th, she picked us up at the Parque de Diverciones, several minutes from the border of La Carpio.  This arrangement was required because taxi drivers would not drop us off at a location inside the community due to La Carpio’s reputation as an area with a high crime rate.  In fact, Costa Ricans from San Jose strongly discouraged us from collecting data in La Carpio for fear of violence.

During her 15 years in La Carpio with the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation, Gail had been a part of significant changes in the community.  Her initiatives focus on improving health, social and environmental conditions and have included creation of medical clinics, pre schools, and a system of garbage collection.  This was no small order considering the neighborhood abuts the landfill for all of San Jose.  When Gail started work, trash was a seemingly permanent part of life in La Carpio. Residents were not fully aware of the health hazards associated with trash nor did they have a method for disposing the trash.  Gail recalled talking with a nursing mother who fed her baby in the trash-covered street with no awareness of disease.  But all that was changing.

“Wait, did I tell you about the project with the telephone poles?” asked Gail as we drove the dusty paved road perched between two gullies. We were traveling the sole access road into La Carpio.  Gail turned the van around and retraced the route so we could see the brightly painted poles and sidewalk that now greet people entering the community.  She explained the graphics and colors are ancient Mayan symbols, representing the resident’s heritage.  The poles are part of a larger health and environmental promotion program entitled, La Carpio Clean, La Carpio Green, La Carpio Healthy, La Carpio Happy.


Every few minutes a trash truck rumbles into La Carpio.

A household’s economic level corresponds with its proximity to the (contaminated) river.  Poorer households have houses along the riverbank.