The Jewish and Lebanese population
There is a strong and compact Jewish community in Costa Rica. Although Jews have been coming to the country since the early 20th Century, the big influx took place in the 1930s and 1940s during the Hitler regime in Germany. Many of the oldsters were survivors of the concentration camps. A lady, who during some time occupied one of my family's rental apartments, had a number tattooed on her left arm by the Gestapo. She told me she sometimes bought lottery tickets with the last two ciphers of her tattoo. However, I never knew whether she ever won or not.
When a poor Jew arrives in the country for the first time, he's readily helped by the Jewish community and before long he's on his feet and running a small business of his own. The established ones make him loans and offer merchandise for him to resell. Many started by carrying a suitcase filled with clothing, blankets and some pots and pans.
They went into isolated rural areas where no established native salesman would go and sold on the instalment plan. Prior to their arrival in Costa Rica, sales of more expensive merchandise were handled strictly on a cash basis. Hardly anyone sold goods in weekly or monthly payments except some of the small pulperías (grocery stores). By introducing this form of easy payments, the Jews are credited with having made it possible for country farmers to furnish their homes and kitchens with appliances and other items necessary to make
their life more pleasant.
That Jews in Costa Rica have contributed greatly to the development of the country is a fact. They are well integrated in the national life and are good citizens. They have their own synagogue, cemetery and social club. Many hold important positions in politics, the professions, business, banking and industry. But I still don't know of any who have gone into agriculture. Perhaps that's because farming is such a risky business especially in the tropics. The second and third generation Jews in Costa Rica are not as parsimonious as were the original arrivals. It has been noticed that frequently, when a male Jew newcomer intermarries with a girl of another faith, he's not given the same assistance and support that is normally offered to another who has not intermarried. He seems to be ostracized.
What has been said of the Jews in Costa Rica as excellent marketers can also be said of the Lebanese except that the latter have not had the reputation of being parsimonious, only thrifty. These are mostly tradesmen and merchants who own their own stores and the ones I know have all made fortunes for themselves. Their commercial aptitude seems to be genetically inherited. They profess the Catholic faith and have their own social club in San José. They too have made a very valuable contribution to the development of the country.