An atypical Santa Ana experience of an international student

Anthony Titcombe
After the murder of George Floyd in May of 2020, Anthony Titcombre '20 published an Op-Ed of his experience studying in Santa Ana, Costa Rica.
I initially chose to go to school at UWC Costa Rica in Santa Ana because my peers told me Costa Rica means ‘Rich Coast’ so expectations were it has all the natural resources and the industries. So coming to school and not seeing beaches or a lake around was almost as big a disillusionment as finding out that the ‘Rich Coast’ has imports worth up to $10 billion. It took some getting used to.
And for my parents, it was an entirely new experience letting their child leave the shores of Nigeria, our homeland.

However, Santa Ana was not the definition of home particularly if you’re black. You see, living inside your home or like me, in school, you live in a bubble especially if you go to places by Ubers or taxis.

On the streets, there are people crossing the lanes at a glimpse of my skin. More persons calling me names in Spanish that my Spanish cannot yet comprehend. And even more, persons turning their heads, anticipating the direction I walk in.

People hold their bags and shopping carts tighter at the sight of my shadow. The policemen constantly change the lane they walk according to the lane I walk. And their peering eyes constantly watching my next move, especially at the checkout counter.
The other day I decided to board the public bus because I wanted to learn the ways of the people of Santa Ana, their culture, attitude, the ins and outs of this city. And lo and behold, I took a seat, and every single passenger that entered paid blind eyes to the seat beside me.

I took this bus 13 times and only once was I not treated as an outcast and it was when I dressed to have a meeting. My dressing was the thin line between social acceptability and being an aberration.

I was literally physically distanced way before the pandemic. I was the ‘do not come close to not catch his skin virus’ man or whatever platitude that is deeply rooted. I had to learn a culture while watching from a distance; I developed paranoia watching my every move, turn afraid of what may happen to me in a city that sees my skin as an aberration.

But on the benefit of the doubt, I would like to say that it is because Santa Ana is not the international Rendez-Vous and the tourist cohort so they do not see many black people and are yet to train their emotions and reflexes to how people that look like me would act.
At a time when police brutality overseas and the black lives matter campaign are in the heat of the moment, I would say we as a people still have a long way to go in overturning the criminal stereotype of black people. More people that look like me, people that have immense gratitude for coming to Santa Ana will come here.
People, this is a rudimentarily Christian city. The God you serve created men with different skins. The hate is only telling Him He made a mistake. We need not recreate our image of God to hate on blacks and, for some people, on Nicaraguans. You are Christians. It’s high time you act like ones.
From the north-east corner of the Catholic Church, 400 meters north
San José, Santa Ana 10901
Phone: (+506) 2282 5609
Email: info@uwccostarica.org
United World College Costa Rica is a non-profit foundation offering a two-year residential pre-university program focused on experiential learning. Our mission is to educate a diverse group of people to become happy, healthy and committed individuals, capable through their leadership and engagement, of fostering positive change in their communities in order to contribute to achieving a more sustainable and peaceful world.