Written by: Shannon Ghere
This is how we give instructions to Potrero: Head towards Playa Flamingo, and take a right on the dirt road. This dustyroad is iconic to our little town and serves as a reminder to the truly rural and impoverished area that you are traveling through. While it may seem quaint and rustic at first glance, it is in fact the cause of large problems that the community has been trying to address for decades.
Day to day life is simply more difficult with a dirt road such as ours. During the rainy season, potholes 6 inches deep cover the entire road. They damage cars, make it nearly impossible to bike, and add an extra 20 minutes to a 3 kilometer drive.
But the worst comes in the dry season, such as we are experiencing now. Dust covers Potrero and the surrounding communities. Lining the streets are grey and white trees and shrubs, suffocated from the dust kicked up by traffic and large construction trucks. Restaurants use gallons of water multiple times a day to drench the road so that their costumers are not eating plates of food covered in dirt. The community center currently has a centimeter of dirt covering the ground that we either must play in it or spend hours sweeping, only to leave us coughing for days and returning to the same problem soon after. At night the streetlights reflect off the dust cloud hovering over us. The health impacts are clear and people in Potrero are suffering from respiratory illnesses and allergies.
Healthy environments are a strong cultural value and source of pride for Costa Ricans. The Costa Rican constitution states “Every person has the right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment.” Despite it being constitutionally guaranteed, Potrero has yet to see this right fulfilled and continues developing health problems because of it.
These are not new issues and the community has long tried to address them. Various companies and government officials have promised to pave the road and never followed through. The situation is not too different then the lack of funding for education in the region. Rural areas such as Potrero are simply not a priority. They are left marginalized in a rapidly developing and prosperous nation, with a lack of funding for education and infrastructure.
But no one has given up hope and Potrero and the surrounding towns are determined to improve their communities. A petition was created recently and is circulating throughout town to show support for paving the road and evidence of its need. I for one signed it, gladly!
**Please take the time and vote for AM founder Meradith as a “woman who makes a world of difference” and help her win $1000 for AM at http://oxfamamerica.maker.good.is/projects/abriendomentes