Black in Costa Rica

Hitchhiking with my Intuition in Costa Rica

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THUMB OUT to the road it’s time for an adventure. “Will I get raped?” It’s a damp day on the Caribbean Coast of the Costa Rican jungle as I stand by the road with an Australian I met just hours before. The bus we’re waiting on never shows so I decide we’re going to hitch a ride. It’s my first day off work from my random hostel receptionist job and he’s a guest continuing his journey. We chat the basic shit as we wait, and I think about the fact that country after country, hostel after hostel, none of the other travelers I encounter look like me. The cleaning people look like me. They my kin so we be vibin’. “I am a traveling Black Queen,” I tell myself. “I am an anomaly in motion.”

To travel the world as a Black Woman takes intention, knowledge of self and a special kind of patience  ̶  especially when ignorant travelers can’t seem to wrap their mind around how a Black Woman can speak fluent Spanish. I just want to scream, “The Diaspora Bitch!”, but I digress.

To travel as a Black Woman is also an exercise in fluidity; an exercise in how much you can challenge your mental conditioning and perceived inferiority; and an exercise in how much you are willing and able to trust your intuition. Us Queens are blessed with the unique gift of magically precise intuition from our ancestors, and on a journey away from all that is familiar, we learn to tune in to it in the deepest of ways.  I have a flashback to a meditation I practiced the night before on Uranus, the planet of spontaneity. I decide to let her be my guide today.

A car slows to a stop in front of me. I look in and see two young guys— the driver who I barely notice and a brown passenger with smiling eyes, shoulder length hair, and gauges in his ears.

“Where are you going?” He asks me.

Feeling poetic I respond, “To the end of the road.”

There’s only one road that runs the Caribbean Coast so he smiles knowingly and responds, “To Manzanillo?”

I say “Si.” He says “Si.”

The vibe feels Irie so I hop in the backseat with my trust in Spirit, and the Australian follows silently.

In the car I briefly start to question if I made the right decision but before I have the chance to go into a mental downward spiral the cutie with gauges whose name turns out to be Luis asks me if I have any papers to roll the Ganja {another word for weed ya lil nerds}. I laugh and tell him that something told me to get some papers earlier in the day but that I got distracted in the store and forgot. He laughs with me as he grabs a big bag of shaggy herb from under the seat. “Ayeee, I chose some weedheads?!” Intuition check—confirmed.

 

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I relax in my seat knowing that I chose well as we ride through the jungle, crossing narrow bridges and having easy conversation until we arrive in Manzanillo, a town that I heard to have very strong Rastafari roots. I feel the town throwing me that ‘we laidback but have a rough edge’ vibe as we pull to a stop in front of the beach at the end of the road. I like it.

“Good vibrations,” I say to no one in particular. Gauged cutie smiles with a nod. We are here.

The Australian goes off to find the guy he’s couchsurfing with and I shake his non-melenated vibrations off my wavelength like a rattlesnake shakes off a layer of dead skin. I walk towards the ocean and dip my feet in the water as Luis and his friend Kevin find a spot on a bench nearby. It’s the same Atlantic from the States, but it feels so different.  I feel Luis looking at me as a light drizzle starts to drip from the sky. Insecurity creeps into me as I wonder, “Should I join them? Do they even want to hang out with me?” But I challenge myself to walk back. When I reach them, Luis smiles with a freshly rolled joint in hand and says, “Smoking timeeee.”  I chill out and get cozy on the bench. Kevin sits next to me as Luis sparks up.

It’s my first time in Manzanillo so I’m taking it all in—the crashing waves, the kids playing, and the black and brown sand that somehow seems to mimic the pigment of the locals I see hanging out in front of the seaside bars and stores.  This place is vibrant—antique and decrepit yet pulsating with a hidden life that I know appears once the European and American tourists riding around on their brightly colored rented cruisers are gone. I’m intrigued—Luis passes the joint.

 

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We talk about the indigenous people of Costa Rica and how the Spanish colonizers raped them, figuratively and literally. We talk about how the United States is built on the backs of Black people. We talk about the Jamaican immigrants who came to the Caribbean Coast to work on the railroads.

“So were they paid?” I ask the guys, “Or were they slaves?”

They look at each other kind of bewildered, then back at me as they reply in unison, “They were paid.”

In my head I’m like, “Damnnn, so not EVERY place that has a Black population outside of Africa means that they were brought over in chains and whipped and tortured and raped for centuries? ”

Now don’t get me wrong, there Was slavery in Costa Rica, it lasted until late 1800’s, but this was my first time ever witnessing the setting created by a willful migration of Black people. No wonder the vibes here are so…different.

 

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“You want to go to the lookout point then go for a swim? It’s about a 30 minute drive. ” I hear Luis ask me. “Mmmkay they haven’t killed me yet AND they are droppin’ knowledge, should I take a chance and trust them some more?”

I hit the joint and calmly respond, “Sure.”

At this point, I’m high as a kite and we all have the munchies. I run off to the ocean because I’m having one of those, “I can’t believe this is real life, the ocean is REALLY right here!?!” moments while Kevin goes to get sandwich supplies. When Kevin returns, he and Luis strategically assemble a delicious meat, cheese, spicy mayo, tomato and Dorito sandwich on a French baguette—right there on the bench by the beach.

I watch intrigued because this is clearly something they’ve done before. It seems like they’ve been friends forever. A handful of locals stop by to chat with Luis while we eat, and once we’re done crushing the sandwiches we wash it down with some random orange drink then head towards the point. We are back to driving through the jungle, now better aquainted and barefoot, sippin’ on some light liquor from Panama called Tamborito (Little Drum) which goes down suprisingly smooth.

Punta Uva literally means Point Grape  in English. Maybe it’s called that because there are a series of rocky points along the Costa Rican Caribbean coast that resemble grapes on a vine. I could be wrong. We pull up and get out.  Luis tucks the Tamborito in his swim trunks as we pass the tourists on the beach. I think we’re just gonna chill and swim when Luis looks back at Kevin and I and says, “Let’s go UP to the point.”  No more intuition checks. These guys are kind and genuine; my Spirit just trusts. “Let’s go UP!”

Tipsy, full, and still a lil high, we begin our trek through the jungle. Our feet gush in the mud as we climb and reach for branches to stop us from falling. We slip and laugh and grab each other’s hands when we’re about to bust our asses. Luis does a little double squeeze everytime he grabs mine. I giggle but then go back to focusing on the ascent.

There are points when we could literally fall off the cliff and into the crashing waves below so I take a moment to thank my body for coming through when I need it most. When we’re near the top, Kevin accidently drops the random orange drink chaser off the side of the Point — I take the Tamborito from Luis and tuck it in my sports bra to ensure that it doesn’t suffer the same fate. A last stretch and we make it to the top.

We reach Punta Uva and I am breathless. It feels like we are in the middle of the ocean. We can see the surfers trying to catch the massive waves to our left, but straight ahead it’s nothing but deep blue. It’s absolutely beautiful. We all take a celebratory shot of Tamborito then I chill and meditate while Luis and Kevin relax on the grass.

 

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The guys snap me out of my meditation by singing my name. I rejoice in the sound of their lovely voices.

We drink more and talk about how they’ve been friends since they were 9, the hatred of the modern world, and my plans to escape the United States of Amerikkka. I tell them that I’m a creature of love just out here tryna vibrate higher. Kevin chuckles, Luis smiles, and we fist bump in agreement.

After a while we take a last shot of Tamborito to shake our nerves before making our way back down. This trek is just as slippery and hilarious as the climb up—mostly because we’re drunk and Luis is freestyling and singing Billie Jean by Michael Jackson every time we slip since we’re “moon walkin” through the muddy jungle.

When we get back to beach level, we peel off our sticky clothes and run our muddy bodies into the warm caribbean waters at Punta Uva Beach. Kevin is not a huge fan of the rocky bottom so Luis and I go in deeper and splash and float and play like kids. We laugh at the Europeans posing on the beach. We talk about souls and spirits. He spits a few bars and I act as his hype man as I float on the gentle waves.

 

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Before I know it, it’s dark. We get back in the car and head to Puerto Viejo aka Old Port. This is the bustling part of town where precious cargo like food and slaves and later the Jamaicans arrived on the Caribbean Coast, and where there are popping beaches, bars, and restaurants. We bypass all of that and stop at a little food stand run by an indigenous woman to get spicy beef patties. They are delicious. I’m happily shocked by how the natives and Jamaicans have found a seemingly natural harmony. Luis leads us to a basketball court where black people are gathered playin’ ball and rhythmically beating on drums. He joins in on the game while Kevin and I chill back and watch.

I’m vibrating like the drums.

When he’s done, he sits next to me and rolls another joint, and then we walk a few steps to the beach to puff and chat and rhyme. There is majestic ocean energy everywhere and I’m in awe and thankful that my life is unfolding this way. It all started with my thumb out to the road.

Intuition Confirmed.

 

  • First appearance in Daughters of the Diaspora  www.daughtersofthediaspora.com
Lennette Abad-Manzueta is an Afrikan moon child who lives her life in between the lines. Her life is anchored in the concept that we are born complete beings tasked with the challenge of digging deep within ourselves to uncover our truest potential — despite the forces obsessed with oppressing us. She hopes to use her words to empower and reinforce the Diaspora’s connection to Self, Spirit, and the Continent. Her outlets include meditation, yoga, cooking, and conversing with strangers. She’s also an avid explorer and warrior-in-training. Lennette earned her B.S. in Economics from the University of Delaware because it made sense at the time. Feel her vibes.