Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Caitlin Fouratt (California State University Long Beach)
Costa Rica has long been a destination country for economic migrants and political refugees within Latin America. However, over the past seven years the country has faced the arrival of new immigrant groups fleeing violence, corruption, and poverty. Asylum seekers from El Salvador, Venezuela, and Colombia generally seek to settle permanently in the Costa Rica, while migrants from Africa, Haiti, and Cuba attempt to pass through the country on their way to the United States. This paper seeks to understand how new migrant and refugee groups are made legible to the Costa Rican public through media representations. We collected more than 1,000 articles about these groups from four major Costa Rican newspapers between 2012-2017. Articles were coded and analyzed through Nvivo. We find that newspaper coverage of these groups builds on already existing narratives about other immigrant groups, while expanding on the kinds of threats these new groups pose to the public. For example, those seen as asylum seekers are portrayed more positively than transit migrants en route to the US. We also found that Costa Rica’s borders are depicted as unstable due to the presence of these African, Haitian, and Cuban transit migrants. Finally, even those groups associated with legitimate asylum claims, like Salvadorans and Colombians, are linked to the emerging threat of transnational organized crime. This linking of transit migrants and asylum-seekers to instability and regional insecurity position them as threats to the Costa Rican people and state, reinforcing and deepening anti-immigrant sentiment.