Belonging and Otherness in the Costa Rican Polity

Posted: 22 Feb 2011


Costa Rica is home to two racial-ethnic minority groups that are of similar population size and geographic location, and who experience similar exclusion from the national imaginary. Yet as is true for the rest of Latin America, indigenous mobilization far outstrips black mobilization, both in terms of frequency and success. Explanations of this general discrepancy in patterns of ethnic mobilization in Latin America argue that blacks and the indigenous are racialized in different ways, with the latter understood as having a distinct cultural identity and the former understood as integrated, making the ability to mobilize or win collective rights more compatible with broadly understood forms of indigenous identity. I argue that distinct racialization patterns are important to understanding variation in ethnic mobilization, but not because of differences in cultural distinction. Rather origins and geography explain these distinct mobilization patterns, as well as why blacks perform dramatically better on every major social and economic indicator, thus lessening the need for black mobilization outside of traditional political channels.

Suggested Citation

Townsend-Bell, Erica, Belonging and Otherness in the Costa Rican Polity. Western Political Science Association 2011 Annual Meeting Paper , Available at SSRN:

Erica Townsend-Bell (Contact Author)

University of Iowa ( email )

341 Schaeffer Hall
Iowa City, IA 52242-1097
United States

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