B is for Bochinche

Costarican idioms from A to Z

In Costa Rica, bochinche means “to mix it up” or “to fight.” But, curiously, it is also a Costarican national dish.

When ordering the almuerzo, or lunch, one can order a casado or a bochinche. The only difference is the way they are presented. The casado is a combination plate of rice, beans, a stewed meat, a salad, and, if you are lucky, a crispy, sweet fried plantain. The bochinche has all the same ingredients but is served in individual small bowls. As my friend Lidia, who owns Lidia’s Place, a small soda (cafe) in Puerto Viejo, says, “You get’s to mix it up.”And actually it is not surprising to me that the bochinche would be a national dish.

Fighting is a state sport here. For all the public relations blitzes about having no military, and the myth that Costa Rica is The Switzerland of Latin America, these people are scrappers.  Historically, they have stolen land from their neighbors and fought wars over it;  Guanacaste and the Nicoya Peninsula were both stolen from Nicaragua, The Southern Zone stolen from Panama, and last year the Costarican government had armed conflicts with Nicaragua over the Rio San Juan border to the north.

This is not something expats learn until they have lived here for some time. The urge to mix it up goes from the highest levels of government right down to campasinos. Almost everyone I know has either been in court, or is in court, over some stupid conflict or another.

One friend of ours bought a plot of land from someone he grew with, his neighbor for over twenty years. Six years after the purchase, and with the price of land skyrocketing, they burned him out and claimed he’d never bought the land, despite his having documents to prove otherwise. Their rationale? He didn’t pay enough money and they needed more. There are fights like this one going on all the time, legal brawls between families, brother against brother, expats versus the locals, and most famously, one hotel owner who fought the government for twenty years. They finally tore his hotel down and he died two months later, but not before he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in court costs.

You can spend years in the legal mosh pits over something as illegal as the previous owner changing his mind despite having signed a bill of sale—”Oh, someone offered more!” Not to put to fine a point on it, it’s a form of extortion.  Ask any Costarican—  they can quote the law as though they’d been to law school, and they are ready to mix it up. The courts are complicit in all this; often, is comes down to paying your way out.

Perhaps Costa Rica should establish a military and conscript  everyone in the country to serve for at least two years. Maybe that would curb the appetite for battle.

So, yes, B si for bochinche, a very Costarican dish.

 

  10 comments for “B is for Bochinche

  1. 02/04/2012 at 7:09 pm

    Thanks everyone for stopping by. I hope I can keep you all entertained with more idioms an reflections. I had to clean house today, mold, rust, and rot being the unholy trinity of the tropics, so I was AT IT ALL DAY LONG. I’m off to check on some of your blogs and then think about E (I’m a few days ahead, knowing I’ll be behind in no time). Happy alphabet blogging to you all.

  2. 02/04/2012 at 6:49 pm

    I repeat….. I’m so happy I found your blog. I’m eating it up. No pun exactly intended on the bochinche.
    Time…. why aren’t they making more time????? I want to look back on your blog and read. I haven’t had time to look ……
    I enjoyed the B Day. Looking forward to C Day and all the rest.

  3. 02/04/2012 at 5:59 pm

    You make me very homesick for Costa Rica. We never had the chance to try bochinche (pronounced bow-chin-chay?). What I liked most about this blog is how you expand the ‘mix it up’ to include the national pastime of mixing it up in court. You make understanding Costa Rican culture very accessible.

  4. 02/04/2012 at 4:22 pm

    I love learning new things about other cultures. Thanks for sharing!

  5. 02/04/2012 at 4:06 pm

    Wow, I guess there are friends and there are friends! This is a kinda scary post, but interesting.

  6. 02/04/2012 at 1:01 pm

    Very interesting!

    Konstanz Silverbow
    nothoughts2small.blogspot.com
    thewriterace.blogspot.com
    A to Z c-host
    http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com

  7. 02/04/2012 at 8:44 am

    Funny–in Mexico we don’t use that word, but in Venezuela, “bochinche” also means party 😀 Party… fight… Hmmm… 😀

  8. 02/04/2012 at 7:44 am

    Sounds like an interesting dish. Thanks for sharing.

  9. 02/04/2012 at 7:12 am

    I love how you’re educating us about the CR ways. Would love to go there for a visit!

  10. 02/04/2012 at 3:11 am

    Very interesting view of life in a different country. I can’t say the word though.

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