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Horizontes Antropológicos

Print version ISSN 0104-7183


LOW, Setha M.. Cultura in the modern city: the microgeographies of gender, class, and generation in the costa rican plaza. Horiz. antropol. [online]. 2000, vol.6, n.13, pp.31-64. ISSN 0104-7183.

This article examines the microgeographies of everyday life in Parque Central and Plaza de la Cultura, two plazas located in the central city of San José, Costa Rica. These locales are created by the individual temporal and spatial attributes of plaza users whose daily movements and activities define these spaces. The growing differences of these locales in terms of the users' class, gender, and age, and their corresponding social activities, is reinforced by differences in local interpretations of the concept of cultura. These social, behavioral, and ideological differences have created spatial boundaries such that people do not cross from one locale to the other, the users do not overlap, and their representations of cultural life are seen as competitive and mutually exclusive. Based on ethnographic evidence, I suggest that this differentiation is a constructed spatial representation that symbolizes the changing nature of Costa Rican ideology and culture. The contrasting and often conflicting images of the two plazas reflect important differences in class-orientation, gender participation, and generational values that separate contemporary Costa Ricans socially, and politically. In San José, Costa Rica, cultura is often discussed as a value from the past, a cultural ideal that is desired, but that conflicts with aspects of modern life. In order to discuss how cultura remains a cultural theme in the urban plaza the everyday life and social behaviors of Parque Central and Plaza de la Cultura are compared. In this comparison time, space, and social activity change the meaning and interpretation of cultura reinforcing the contrasting metaphors expressed in the physical design of each.

Keywords : class; culture; gender; plazas; public space; spatial analysis.

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