Costa Rica
The Costa Rican pavilion, designed by country brand Essential Costa Rica, is located in the Mobility District Image Credit: Catalina Silesky

“Pura Vida,” says Francisco J. Chacón Hernández, Ambassador of the Republic of Costa Rica to United Arab Emirates, in an interview with Gulf News.

It’s a saying he’ll repeat often in our conversation about the Latin American country’s participation in the upcoming Expo 2020. ‘Pura Vida’, which translates to pure life, has a greater connotation than just living simply. “One has to be positive and have a good attitude to life in order to overcome the difficulties of life – that’s what pura vida represents,” says the Ambassador.

It’s particularly apt considering the turbulence created by COVID-19. “Everyone has lost something or someone,” says Hernández. But, he adds: “The only thing you cannot do at this time is to stop moving.”

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It’s a way of being that has helped Hernández's country men and women navigate the choppy waters of recovery that comes after a pandemic. Pragmatically, first and foremost, they took into account what they could bring to the UAE and what they could not. “During 2020, the team, based in the UAE and Costa Rica, took a few months’ pause to join the country’s focus on tackling the most immediate pandemic challenges. By August last year, we recapped our job roles and re-ignited our commitment with Expo. We did budget adjustments to respond to the huge challenges that the pandemic has posed on our economy and public finances. We updated our theme statement to reflect the new circumstances and, at the same time, opportunities created by COVID-19,” explains William Reuben, Commissioner General of the Republic of Costa Rica.

The new theme of the 400-square-metre pavilion became ‘Natural Intelligence’. It’s something the country is very, very good at. Costa Rica, which is home to 6.5 per cent of the world’s biodiversity, uses renewable resources to generate more than 98 per cent of its electrical energy. Key to the 51,060-square-kilometre nation's sustainable behaviour is the protection it offers its forests. “Costa Rica provides protection of woods and forest in 54 per cent of its territory. Its sustainable energy model enables the country to have more than 98 per cent of renewable energy production in 2020, with an electric mix that uses water, wind, geothermal, and biomass resources,” says Reuben.

98%


renewable energy produced in Costa Rica in 2020, with an electric mix that uses water, wind, geothermal, and biomass resources.

It is also aiming to become a carbon neutral economy by 2050. “One of the pillars of its carbon-neutral strategy is the conversion of the transport system into an electricity-based one, boosted by renewable energy,” explains Reuben.

One has to be positive and have a good attitude to life in order to overcome the difficulties of life – that’s what pura vida represents.

- Francisco J. Chacón Hernández

“The mobility strategy foresees two main progressive stages: First, transforming the light-duty vehicles fleet to zero-emissions, and second, promoting a freight transport system that adopts modalities, technologies, and energy sources to achieve zero or the lowest emissions possible,” he adds.

Not only does the Central American country cleverly use its resources to power up, it does so in a wallet-friendly fashion - and it's bringing this innovative tech to Dubai. “One of the great achievements that we would like to highlight is the smart innovations that our country has put forward to make environmental solutions economically sustainable. For example, through the design and implementation of the payment-for-environmental-services model, Costa Rica was able to overturn reforestation in 20 years; and through the promotion of eco-tourism, the country has been able to transform conservation areas into businesses opportunities,” explains Reuben.

One of the great achievements that we would like to highlight is the smart innovations that our country has put forward to make environmental solutions economically sustainable.

- William Reuben

Hernández confirms that the pavilion will focus on green sustainability. “Two, we are going to focus on the trade, the products we are selling to the area. Basically agriculture, medical devices – the high tech industry. We are also  going to [talk about] learning Spanish [when exploring] our wildlife. That is unique – to learn the language within the habitat. We do also medical tourism, [that is] healing with Nature.

“We have with Emirates a code-share flights via New York, Houston that we are going to be showcased,” he says.

Located in Mobility District

The Costa Rican pavilion, designed by country brand Essential Costa Rica, is located in the Mobility District and offers visitors a six chapter story of the country. “Visitors will have an immersive experience, throughout six chapters, using visuals, sounds, books and smells of Costa Rica. It will take them into a journey full of images, showing milestones in Costa Rica’s development as a country that abolished the army in 1948, invests more than 7 per cent of its gross domestic product in education, stands as a global role-model in sustainable development and aspires to consolidate its advanced high-tech sector,” says Reuben.

The six chapters have been issued the following titles:

  • Welcome to Costa Rica: The Land of Pura Vida;
  • The Costa Rican tipping point;
  • The Pura Vida Lifestyle;
  • Well-being essentials;
  • All roads lead to green; and
  • One planet, one call, your turn.

On the ground floor of the one-storey building, visitors will enter into a 200-square-metre space that has an interactive space for kids, sculptures and books. In this exhibition area, explains Reuben, “We will showcase our historic achievements and our goals for the future, inviting visitors to be part of the challenge of protecting our planet. The Costa Rica Pavilion will highlight its economic, environmental, and social development model that has boosted people’s wellbeing, while safeguarding our environment.”

Hernández adds that the country specialises in products of high value and productivity. And so, on display will be “a showcase of the high-tech, medical equipment, the agriculture, the tourism, the connectivity, the scientific innovation which we do”.

When visitors head up to the first floor, they will find business meeting rooms and offices for conversations between investors and firms and where trained staff will offer information and guidance. Here, visitors can also meet guests brought from Costa Rica, explains Ambassador Hernández, which will include a world-known former chairperson of the climate convention, Christiana Figueres.

Costa Rica
Image Credit: Catalina Silesky

National Day celebrations

The pavilion will especially be kitted out on December 7, which is when it will be celebrating the country’s national day. Without giving away the name of the guest, Hernández says: “we are going to have somebody very important then.”

“A high-level official delegation from Costa Rica is confirmed to come to celebrate its achievements as the Bicentennial,” confirmed Catalina Silesky, the Costa Rica Pavilion Director.

It’s Pura Vida, or having a positive bent of mind. And it’s about trust. Hernández says: “I think above all it’s a matter of mutual trust and a matter of friendship and brotherhood. We got an invitation [to the Expo], we accepted, there was something terrible that happened in between. We didn’t quit, we stand with the UAE. We help in every segment of the process. We are with the UAE in the renovated version of Expo. We are going to be there… we have also offered the UAE all our support in promoting the Expo,” says Hernández.

“[First] we put the heart, [then] we put mind and action. Not the other way around. That’s how Latin Americans are,” he adds. “Pura Vida.”