My Pura Vida!
What is Pura Vida? Simply translated, it means Simple life or Pure life- It’s My Way Of Life!
The Road To Costa Rica
My husband Phil and I first touched down on the shores of Costa Rica when we were in our care-free 20’s, before kids or any major responsibilities were upon us. This was probably circa 1990, even before downtown Tamarindo had a paved road. We stayed at a hotel called Cabinas Mariellas, located at the beginning of the downtown strip , away from the hustle and bustle of the main drag. The quaint hotel is still there with its bright colored buildings, and pretty garden, right across the street from the beach.
I still remember wading across the river-mouth to head over to a surf spot. The waves were creating troughs so deep that I could not even see Phil from the beach. Now-a days there is a boat to take you across the river moth because the croc population has given locals and surfers cause to be careful.
Lots has changed in Tamarindo, the road is now paved and has become a bevy of action with restaurants, bars, specialty boutiques, and tourist shops lining both sides of the street. On any given day you can find a mix of locals and tourists milling around. The pristine white sand beach of Playa Tamarindo, the clean little waves, the boats mored off the beach are all still there, unchanging and welcoming all who fall in love with Costa Rica as we have.
Its been quite a love affair since then. The smells, sounds and sights of Costa Rica were impossible to get out of our system, we wanted to stay there forever, in that magical place, with all that Pura Vida vibe, but that seemed impossible to us at that time in our lives, and we felt lucky to have experienced the magic at all. We have always carried that feeling with us, it forever took up a space in our hearts, this place of unending beauty, and a simple pure life filled with nature and warm water.
Would we be back. Ahhh the dream.
Phil and I had plenty of other traveling adventures together over the last 25 years together. Seven months back-backing all over Mexico , traveling around Europe, traversing the USA at least 6 times. I myself had spent even more time in Mexico during my undergraduate years at Rhode Island School of Design. I went with a small group for 8 weeks, to explore ruins and spent time at an art school in San Miguel del Allende, one of the most beautiful Colonial style mountain towns in Mexico, rich with art and culture and history. There were ceramic tiles factories and glass blowers to visit, and I was in my element as an art student.
All the time I spent in my art history classes had been brought to life in the places I traveled to. In Europe I drank up museum after museum, the classic pieces of the Louvre and De’Orsay and the unique pieces of the Musee de Art Naif, the Picasso Museum and so many others were widening my eyes more and more to how much more amazing these pieces were in person rather than in history books or projected on a lecture hall screen.
But Mexico stole my heart, seeing the actual murals of Diego Rivera, the bright blue house where Frida Kalo called her home and created her art as an invalid, this was breathtaking for me. In Mexico I explored the amber museums of San Cristobal De Las Casas and visited the Chiapas Native Mexican Indians in their village, this was a dream come true. I drank up the culture like a love tonic as we ate and traveled our way throughout Mexico, and parts of Central America. I was visually charged by the bright colors of the weavings in the markets of Panachel, Guatamala, and the smell of the copal incense filling up the squares in Oaxaca this was becoming a part of methat i would never shake, Latin America.
The freedom of living on the beaches for months in a little shack on Playa Zipolite was also a vibe that I could never shake. Returning to the USA to marry my travel partner and set up a loft space in Brooklyn, NY was a challenge. I was never truly happy living in that big city, so far from nature, buried in unending snow or the ridiculous humidity of the East Coast. It was always a struggle, to find a balance.
But now, as I plant my flag in a culture that values the beauty of their thousands of miles of coastline as a national treasure and protects those gorgeous beaches and their magical natural resources, I feel that I have finally come home, to MY version of Lain America, where I now find myself an expat.
Costa Rica is my Pura Vida!
Pura Vida is a term that I only heard about after visiting here in Costa Rica. Hawaii has a similar term in their ‘Hakuna Matada’. Both meaning everything from “Have a good day” to “Thanks for shopping here.”
‘The most commonly used phrase in Costa Rica literally means “Pure life”, but the saying goes beyond its simple translation: it’s a way of life. Contextually, then, it symbolizes the idea of simply enjoying life and being happy. As the Urban Dictionary states, it’s a synonym of “hakuna matata” and reflects the relaxed lifestyle of Costa Ricans.
Interestingly, Pura Vida originates from Mexico.
But where did Costa Ricans take this phrase from? According to a study of the expression by Anna Marie Trester, a film called Pura vida came to Costa Rica from Mexico in 1956, directed by Gilberto Martínez Solares. In the movie, “Pura vida” is the expression of eternal optimism used by a comic character, played by the actor Antonio Espino, who unfortunately can’t seem to do anything right. While a small population used it then, the phrase “Pura vida” was used nationwide by 1970.’
It is now a very common term used all over the country and local Costa Ricans (ticos) identify with it where ever they may be. Once you spend time here you know just what they are talking about. It’s a vibe, a happiness that comes from the simple understanding of a pure and peaceful life, free from the rat race and hustle bustle. The pura vida lifestyle is uncluttered with a deep appreciation for nature, and friends and family.