"We have lots of Chinese people on the west coast," the tour guide said to the bus full of people. "And there are no cats or dogs."
Awkward silence ensued followed by nervous laughter. The lady in front of me turned around and voiced her displeasure about the Costa Rican's view of Cantonese cuisine. Now I'm not what you call a politically correct person. As my Chinese friend often calls me a 'cracker' I refer to her affectionately as a 'slanty eyed commie.' The ringtone I have set for my latino roommate is the Mexican hat dance, but sadly that's only because I haven't found the 'Frito Bandito' jingle available.
Context is key.
Given all that I was surprised by the tour guide's openness on his little fun in stereotyping. I normally keep my jokes amongst those who know me and get my sense of humor and assume most with the slightest amount of social graces would do the same.
One day we drove under an overpass and I saw swastika graffiti on the bridge. I remember feeling a bit disappointed in that, hoping it was just some punk just trying to be edgy without knowing what that truly meant. I imagined a kid with their pants around their ankles and on a gasoline high expressing no knowledge of what the symbol is to over half the world's population.
Another tour guide told us that most of the population of Costa Rica is not happy with the fact that they have at least 25% native blood. Interesting as most Americans who's family dates back pre-Civil War wears their indigenous heritage, no matter how small, like a badge.
It was the first time in all my travels abroad that I experienced racist behavior. Good to see the US hasn't cornered the market on that.
"The only nation I've ever been tempted to feel really racist about are the Swiss - a whole country of phobic hand washers living in a giant Barclays Bank." - Jonathan Raban