Six months ago, when Liberia, Nicoya, and Carrillo declared themselves cantons free from sexual discrimination, the proclamation seemed more like a utopian ideal.
At the end of March, Nandayure joined that list. But what do these declarations mean? Has there already been an impact in the province? Have any concrete policies been established that work towards eliminating discrimination due to sexual orientation?
The response is less than satisfactory. Although they are full of good intentions, the declarations from the first three cantons are still on paper only.
La Voz de Guanacaste spoke with the three municipal leaders who presented the motions last year. All of them agree that the motions have not been put into practice because municipal budgets need to be changed in order to channel funds to these types of campaigns or activities.
Liberia was the first canton in Guanacaste to take the initiative back in September of 2016. Municipal council member Andrea Gutiérrez said that the Liberia’s Youth Committee is working on five forums for the middle of this year. The forums seek to raise awareness with the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) community.
However, she did not mention that any activities have already been undertaken in support of these people’s rights.
A First Step
Council members William Allen, in Nicoya, and Carlos Chanto, in Carrillo, also confirmed that the proposal has had no impact in their cantons. Both plan on presenting a motion to include a budget line items for awareness campaigns in 2018.
Chanto opined that the declarations as being discrimination-free places are just one step from local governments, but that activists and human rights groups must follow up.
“I would love for gay-rights movements to raise the flag in Guanacaste, and that this not be merely a political proposition,” said the council member.
Janekeith Durán, adviser to the Equal Rights Front, considers the declarations that have been made in Guanacaste and in a total of 38 cantons in Costa Rica are an important step so that there can be municipal policies that benefit the LGBTQ community.
Durán explained that the Municipality of Desamparados, after making their declaration, created a municipal policy in order to increase awareness campaign with city workers regarding how to treat customers and colleagues whose sexual orientation is different than theirs.
“This is an example of political will that helps each respective canton might fight against discrimination of people with different sexual orientations,” the activist said.
If council members Chanto and Allen hope that their movements create change, they will have to wait a while: in Guanacaste there is no organization or movement that focuses on defending this population’s rights.
For Geovanny Delgado, president of the Costa Rica Diversity Movement, the chief challenge for activism in the country is to decentralize strategies from the Greater San Jose Metropolitan Area.
Although there aren’t regional groups in Guanacaste like there are in Puntarenas and San Carlos, activists believe that fights like legalizing marriage equality that are worked on in the Central Valley lead to benefits for the LGBTQ population throughout the country.
Fear Of Flying The Flag
Regardless of how cosmopolitan Guanacaste’s coasts might be, gay and lesbian Guanacastecans do not have a single openly gay-friendly meeting place.
However, there are three hotels in the province that call themselves “inclusive” due to their affiliation with the Costa Rican Chamber of Diversity in Commerce, according to Julio César Calvo, president of the Chamber.
These hotels are Buena Vista Lodge (Rincón de la Vieja), Hotel Manglos (Playa Hermosa), and JW Marriott Guanacaste (Hacienda Pinilla).
The concept “inclusive” does define a place as “gay friendly,” but their personell have participated in a number of workshops that talk about not discriminating against any homosexual clients and how to treat them like anyone else.
These inclusive hotels also carry out their own projects so that no coworker is discriminated against for their sexual orientation.
For Calvo, there are a lot of places in Guanacaste like Tamarindo, Playas del Coco, or Liberia that have all the characteristics to be gay tourism destinations, but business owners are not aware of the benefits.
“A lot of people think that if they hang a rainbow flag they’re going to turn their business into a den of orgies,” said the president of the Chamber.
He also thinks that this attitude is due to a lack of understanding about the economic benefits that the LGBTQ community generates.
Many same-sex couples are considered “dinks” (dual income, no kids), meaning that the couple’s money is set aside for themselves to travel, spoil each other, and be tourists, added Calvo.
The first efforts are only one stripe of a great rainbow that could dance across the Guanacastecan sky if local residents lead their own processes of social inclusion. The struggle belongs to all of us, but someone must raise the first flag with concrete, palpable actions, agreed everyone interviewed for this article.