By Lindsey VanArsdale
Today we kicked the day off by visiting the Universidad Veritas. The school building was open air and had tons of natural light and a nice breeze. We listened to a very interesting lecture by Professor Joaquin Lizano about Costa Rican history and it’s effect on the economy. It was interesting to see how the CR colon went from 6.60 =$1US in the 1970s to today’s situation of 548=$1. Basically it is very hard for small and medium businesses to thrive when they are taxed and hit with fees so excessively. The interest rate on business loans is around 10%. In CR, a blue collar/minimum wage type person can expect to make about $360US/month while an educated professional makes about $2,000US/month. They are faced with a shrinking middle class.
They are also a very risk averse society and it is very visible as you drive around. Every possible opening to a house is barred up. After the lecture, we were able to have lunch at the school. I had a delicious lunch of frijoles, arroz, y pescado for 2700 colons. After lunch, I decided to try and find a convenience store with some other people so we could purchase some botellas de agua as the universidad had run out. While we were walking, a local man was out with his cocker spaniel and said hello to us. We tried to ask for directions to the super mercado, but he didn’t speak English. He put his dog back in his house and walked us to the super market. He was very nice and friendly and asked us questions about ourselves as best as he could. His name is Sergio. We said goodbye at the supermarket after we got our water bottles and hustled back to the bus. It was cool to interact with a local and that he was so nice to us.
After a couple hours at the hotel, we boarded the bus again to check out our Smart Tool, which is our Esteban’s machine shop. Esteban, our contact, was hosted by Duquesne’s Small Business Development Center to learn from entrepreneurs in the United States. During his time in Pittsburgh, he met with us to share knowledge of what to expect in Costa Rica. His small company is a supplier for Samtec.
He is looking to expand operations to Costa Rica. His shop was in a gated area with a few houses and his horses. Honestly my favorite part of the shop tour was his horses. I petted them and let them lip at my hand. The albino one was so hungry he kept checking me for food and bit my foot while he was snuffling around for grass!