El trabajador

¡Feliz Día del Trabajador!

Like a lot of privileged people, I imagine, I have never thought all that carefully about International Workers’ Day. As a reporter, I thought of it primarily as the day when I’d hang out at the Legislative Assembly for hours on end: the assembly president for the coming year is elected on May 1st, and the president delivers his annual address to the nation. To liven up the proceedings, some Costa Rican media cover the entrance of legislators and Cabinet ministers as if it were the Oscars Red Carpet, publishing comments about their couture (or lack thereof) the following day.

This year, Workers’ Day is different, and not because I’ll miss the exhilarating fashion coverage. It’s because we’re seeing work as we never had before. We are lucky, those who are still employed; lucky, those who are employed and can stay at home; lucky, those who can depend on the continued hard, risky, often dreary or physically taxing work of people we didn’t appreciate and support the way we should.

I scrolled through my photos from the past six months or so (which I do not advise – it’s very depressing, all those crowds and children chasing each other and scenes of normalcy) and found a boring old shot from a local feria one nondescript Saturday. There, in the shadows of the market stalls, are some of the farmers I wish I could visit now, to pick out fruit or take fruit from their hands when they pick it out for me, to count out grubby coins from my market coin purse without a care in the world. There they are in that photo, people who now have nowhere to sell or who have found other ways to get by, people who are still sowing and tending to the food we eat and that we appreciate now as never before. There they were, the bus driver who took me to and fro. I haven’t seen him in six weeks, but he is still there, driving to and fro.

It is a brutal Workers’ Day for many people this year. Maybe this year’s May 1st has the seeds of something better. It will, unless we forget: and we are very good at forgetting. We should write it down and steel ourselves. We should tell our children what we are thinking so that they, watching all of this wide-eyed, can hold us to task.

I’m a writer in San José, Costa Rica, on a year-long quest to share daily posts on inspiring people, places and ideas from my adopted home as a kind of tonic during a rough time in the world. Sign up (top right of this page) to receive a little dose of inspiration every weekday in your mailbox; tell a friend; check out past posts; and please connect with me on Instagram or FacebookIf you want to learn more about how to support Costa Rica during the crisis, visit my COVID-19 section, updated regularly – or for ways to enjoy Costa Rica from afar, visit Virtual Costa Rica.


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