Friday, December 3

‘Feels Like Home’: Why Are Black Americans Moving to Costa Rica? | Costa Rica

When she first set foot in Costa Rica, Davia Shannon knew instantly that she would eventually return permanently. She loved being able to do yoga with the jungle as a backdrop and surf whenever she wanted. Even more, he appreciated the feeling of freedom that he gained. Free from the fear, anxiety, and pain of not feeling accepted in the US, Shannon had found her future home.

Returning to California after her 10-day visit, Shannon, now 46, developed a one-year exit plan that consisted of renting her home, selling her car, relocating her furniture, and downsizing to 12 suitcases.

In March 2016, Davia Shannon packed up her belongings and left her lifelong home in Los Angeles to move 3,500 miles away with her twin daughters.

The adjustment was not easy. Shannon, who comes from a large family, hoped to recreate the same community atmosphere in Puerto Viejo, with people who understood her struggles and came from a similar lifestyle, but admits that settling down was a challenge. “I couldn’t find anyone who looked like me and when I did, I felt like I couldn’t connect with them,” he says.

Even Caribbean women were difficult to approach, and Shannon says they rarely showed their kindness. “I was even having a hard time getting information and doing the basics, like figuring out where to pay my electricity bill,” he says. Most of the Caribbean people in the area speak English and Shannon is fluent in Spanish, so a cultural barrier played a bigger role than language.

Davia Shannon in Costa Rica.
Davia Shannon in Costa Rica. Photography: Davia Shannon

Learning from her struggles, Shannon decided to open a relocation business, Life-A-Holic Costa Rica, to help other African American expats moving to the country. Since its launch in 2017, the company has helped 176 black and brown people with their desire to relocate to the southern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. The relocation company also offers membership in a support group, known as the Tribe. Shannon describes the group as a prepared family that helps expats make a comfortable transition to life in Puerto Viejo. A directory, numerous resources, and social events such as Soul Food Sundays, karaoke nights, family dinners, and birthday celebrations are just a few of the offerings the Tribe offers.

Shannon decided to extend her services to blacks and brunettes for two reasons: Most of the information about the relocation was directed at whites, and most of what she read about Costa Rica online was negative and false. “I know the reason negative information was perpetuated was because the vast majority of people here have brown skin, and for some, that’s too scary to explore,” she says. “It’s okay, because my service is aimed at people who want to live in peace and harmony with the people of the African diaspora.” He also notes that moving to another country can be difficult for people who started traveling later in life. Because black americans have less disposable income, and therefore less free time to travel during your youth, the transition to living in another country as an adult is not always easy.

Think in pieces and travel vlogs show that black Americans move to Costa Rica for various reasons, but most say they are seeking an improved lifestyle. “The main thing my clients want to do is get off the hamster wheel. They want to stop having to work 80 hours a week. They want to come buy a piece of land, build a house and use that as a base to create, ”says Shannon, who has bought three properties since moving to Costa Rica five years ago.

Although she had a high-paying job in Los Angeles, Shannon couldn’t accumulate enough wealth to pass it on. “I felt that if I continued to live in California with this lifestyle, then I would not be able to leave anything to my children. I didn’t want them to have to repeat what I was doing, which was working very hard, working on weekends and always being in a rush mode, ”says Shannon. He worked as a district manager for a leading human capital management company, but now makes a decent income through his relocation business and property rentals on Airbnb.

The 'Tribe' of Porto Viejo, in Costa Rica.
The ‘Tribe’ of Porto Viejo, in Costa Rica. Photography: The ‘Tribu’ of Porto Viejo, in Costa Rica.

In the United States, generational wealth is obtained primarily through property inheritance, career advancement, or stock ownership. But blacks in America are the least likely group owning a home. And since black women in America only win 63% of what white men are paid, they are the highest group of unemployed among women, and they are less likely to receive promotionsGenerational wealth is an unattainable feat for many. But in Puerto Viejo, where the average oceanfront home costs approximately $ 100,000, owning a house or land is a more achievable goal.

Sequoia Carr, a 37-year-old freelance writer and editor, is buying land in Costa Rica with plans to build a house. He has never seen the value of paying exorbitant home prices in the US and farmland has always been his focus.

After living in New York and Los Angeles for most of his life, Carr found himself planting roots in Puerto Viejo at the height of the pandemic, in March 2020. Originally, Carr planned to visit the country for three months, but two weeks after arrival, the borders were closed to stop the spread of the coronavirus. His vacation turned into a permanent move.

“I have traveled all over the world and this was the only place where I really felt it was a privilege to be black. Not only was it welcome, but people were happy that I was here, not just as a foreigner, but as a black person, ”he says. “In turn, this place feels like home.”

Security also influenced his decision to stay. “The apparent racism and political uprisings made me feel like it was no longer safe to be in the United States as a black person,” says Carr, noting that her ability to work remotely made it easier for her to leave. . “I wake up in a place where I feel less stress, less anxiety. I feel at home, I feel welcome and I have all the things I need to make me happy ”.

The belief that America is not a safe place for blacks is shared by many expats seeking a more promising life in countries that are more accepting of diversity. In fact, according to Amali Tower, founder and CEO of Climate Refugees, the oppression faced by blacks in the U.S. is so severe that if African Americans seek asylum in another country, they would qualify.

Costa Rica, which is classified as the most peaceful country in Central America, is one of the most politically stable countries in the world and experiences acts of armed violence. nine times less more often than in the US “In Los Angeles I would never allow my kids to leave the house without me, but here they can ride their bikes wherever they want and in and out as they want. They go to the beach, they walk the dogs, they surf, they are happy and they are safe, ”says Shannon.

Janna Zinzi, Co-Founder of WanderWomxn Travels.
Janna Zinzi, Co-Founder of WanderWomxn Travels. Photography: Janna Zinzi

Janna Zinzi describes her life in Costa Rica as safe and stress free. The 41-year-old travel writer made the decision to leave New Orleans during a three-month stay in Costa Rica after watching the attack on the United States Capitol on January 6 on television. “I saw what was happening in the United States and I booked three more months. After seeing that nonsense, I really had no desire to go back to America, ”he says. (The same fears resulted in an increase in inquiries for Shannon’s business, averaging five to ten inquiries a day for a month after the riots.)

Zinzi met Shannon through friends shortly after moving to Puerto Viejo, talking about the close-knit atmosphere in the black expat community. You are now in Florida to renew your travel visa, sell your car, and remove your belongings from the warehouse before moving permanently. Just being back in the United States since June has reminded Zinzi why he left.

“Every time I go [Costa Rica] For over a week, I can almost feel the stress, tension, rage, trauma, and anger. Especially in black people and communities of color, ”she says. “I know that my mental and physical health is much better when I am outside the United States.”

Your concerns about police brutality, mass shootings, and constant exposure to microaggressions do not exist in Costa Rica. “I feel more relaxed, I feel more free because there are things that you don’t have to think about there that you think about in the United States.”

Despite the welcoming culture and feeling of belonging, being an African-American woman in Costa Rica has some drawbacks, expats say, but not too old to handle. Natural salons are not easy to come by, ethnic hair products at the grocery store are in short supply, and dating can be challenging if you are looking for a black partner in a favorable relationship. Economic possition, due to a limited economy, as well as racial exclusion in employment opportunities.

Due to the suffering of the Costa Rican economy and strict work visa policy, most of Shannon’s expat clients are self-employed, work remotely, or are retired. Many of them speak Spanish at an intermediate level, but fluency in the language is not at all necessary to get around. However, the minor setbacks do not outweigh the advantages of living in a safe environment where your existence is humanized.

As Carr said, “There is a lack of convenience here, but the beauty is that I have access to the ocean and mountains, and a different quality of life.”

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