- La inolvidable edad: jóvenes en la Costa Rica del siglo XX ed. by Iván Molina Jiménez and David Díaz Arias
This compact collection of six articles considers the relationship between the Costa Rican state and its young people over the length of the twentieth century. The book's authors suggest that San José officials viewed the constantly growing population of young people as a consistent threat to the established order as well as a potentially potent motor for economic growth, and they sought to balance these.
The volume's authors take a variety of approaches. The first chapter employs statistical analysis to show that public high schools in the first decades of the twentieth century admitted more students of humble origins. The second chapter considers the gendered ideals of the upper class for its daughters through quinceañera announcements in the nation's primary daily La Nación.
The third and fourth chapters examine the 1968 generation. The book's fifth chapter looks at how the economic crisis of the 1980s inspired a generation of young people whose outlooks were less politically centered and much more economically anchored than those of earlier generations. The sixth chapter looks at the emergence of a heavy metal music scene in the 1990s, and how it inspired a social and cultural panic among authorities who labeled its young adherents as drug addicts, Satanists, and a threat to the social fabric.
The third and fourth chapters are the most interesting, important, and best-paired. Both consider Costa Rica's 1968 generation. Both highlight how this generation questioned the status quo that their parents and political leaders were reinforcing within a Cold War context and how they thus came to be viewed as a threat to the established order. Moreover, state officials cognizant of student and youth actions in the global north were eager to channel youth energies away from global leftist calls to question the capitalist order. The Costa Rican state sought these ends by increasing secondary and university opportunities, expanding suffrage to 18-year-olds, and creating the Ministry of Youth Culture and Sports.
These efforts were largely successful in curbing youth political action, with one very large exception: the 1970 student protests against the state's decision to ratify a contract with the US-owned ALCOA (Aluminum Company of America) to exploit the nation's bauxite deposits. In March and April of 1970, University of Costa Rica students organized marches and protests that filled San José's streets with university and high school students. When the legislative assembly approved the ALCOA contract, a violent [End Page 724] confrontation involving tear gas and the use of police batons resulted in dozens of injuries and arrests.
These two chapters have the potential to begin a much overdo conversation in the field of Costa Rican history over how the nation fit into the broader Cold War processes that are well documented in other parts of Latin America. Unfortunately, they do not begin that conversation. The chapters make only passing reference to the Paris protests of 1968 and the Cuban Revolution as events that likely shaped the Costa Rican state's approach to the protest.
Costa Rican scholars are bound to find helpful nuggets in this collection, and the two chapters on the ALCOA generation are sure to become required reading for Costa Rican historians. Sadly, however, this collection is unlikely to excite scholars outside of Costa Rica, due to its insular framing. This is a real missed opportunity, especially in regard to Chapters 3 and 4, which would have benefitted from a deeper interrogation into how the ALCOA protest fit into a broader regional Cold War context. In particular, the infamously tragic Mexican student movement of 1968 would almost unquestionably have shaped both state and student actions and responses in 1970 Costa Rica. Similarly, some analysis of heavy metal in other parts of Latin America, namely, Brazil, where Sepultura emerged...