The Use of Coffee Ideology by Costa Rican News Outlets During the COVID-19 Pandemic
At the onset of the pandemic, Costa Rican news on coffee-related issues increased. Reports touched on the impact the pandemic has had on coffee farmers, the demand for coffee pickers and the possibility of lowering national unemployment rates by hiring domestic work, in spite of the fact that coffee is not the country’s greatest export nor is it the largest source of income. Coffee has been an important symbol in the Costa Rican imaginary, but why does this increased coverage arise during the pandemic? To understand this turn to coffee, I look first at the history and political economy of coffee to identify why coffee is important to Costa Rica, how that importance was consolidated into an ideology, and how coffee lost its economic priority over the years. Then, I analyze news sources, in the form of newspaper articles and news reports, to identify the ways coffee ideology is used and reflected during the pandemic and why. I focus in particular on a TV news report on Dota, the last canton of Costa Rica to remain without transmissions for 5 months, which highlights the area’s reputation as coffee growers as one of the main motivators to keep transmissions low. I argue that media coverage of coffee in 2020 reveals a crisis in Costa Rican identity, which has been constructed around coffee. Issues of nationalism, political power, and the accuracy of coffee ideology in the present (and the past) seep through the invocations the media and the general population make.