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I am completely in love with this couple, their love story, and sweet country sunflower wedding from Britt Croft Photography. Matt and Kathy became fast friends after Matt came on as the “weekend boy,” and the two spent  their shifts talking for hours on end. The proposal came two years after dating, was perfectly planned, and everything Kathy could have ever dreamed of. Three-quarters of the way there, Kathy realized they were heading in the direction of the Shenandoah Valley. Matt and I did do a first look and it was one of the best decisions we made for our wedding day. I love everything about this wedding – especially the sweet moments that brought Matt and Kathy together. Daydreaming of the beach (in six weeks!!) while I workout this morning It was incredibly energizing and left a smile on my face. The theater is full, as the Costa Rican audience awaits the start of the surprising smash hit "El Nica". The solemn figure of El Nica (Jose Mejia Espinoza, as played by Cesar Melendez), a Nicaraguan immigrant construction laborer, drags his battered and beaten body past the front row of the audience and onto the stage. El Nica grabs his bad knee, sits gingerly down in silence at his little table, and looks mournfully at his wooden icon of Jesus on the cross. The issue of the play is a pertinent one and reflects more than 150 years of uncomfortable relations between Nicaragua and Costa Rica and the plight of Nicaraguan laborers in Costa Rica, estimated at 300,000 permanent and 200,000 seasonal who come to work in construction projects, banana and coffee plantations, and as maids and nannies. Cesar Melendez hopes that his stage work will bring about consciousness and it seems to be working.
With the 1856 invasion of the North American mercenary army of William Walker in Nicaragua, Costa Rica's army moved into southern Nicaragua. Populations of both countries grew dramatically in the following years, but Costa Rica mainly via European immigration and Nicaragua mostly from within. During the mid-20th century Costa Rica was at war with itself, instability was the rule, yet democratic forces won the last battle.
According to an English language sociological profile, the book titled The Costa Ricans (Waveland Press, 1988), Nazism was a popular theme during the period of WWII in Costa Rica.
After peace was brokered between the Sandinistas and the Contras, with a critical role played by then Costa Rica president Oscar Arias Sanchez (earning him a Nobel Peace Prize), yet more Nicaragua immigrants, now strictly economic ones, flooded into tiny Costa Rica. Outrage in Nicaragua and threats from Costa Rica followed, when Nicaragua reacted with suspension of Costa Rica's rights to navigate inside its border. Few could argue that without cheap Nicaraguan labor to pick coffee and bananas and build and clean its hotels, the Costa Rican agro-tourism economy would collapse. El Nica proceeds in his brutally honest dialogue with his only friend, the wooden icon of Jesus, as he sits at his little table after a hellish day at work. El Nica's boss has to take leave and he is then left alone in the canteen with some of his fellow workers, all Costa Ricans disgruntled at the loss of their soccer team. The speech of El Nica is melodramatic, heavy handed and aggressive, but it is also reality. Within the confines of the monologue, the response to El Nica's speech to fellow workers at the bar is met with little sympathy. The monologue ends with El Nica in his tiny bed, singing to the stars outside his window, able to shrug off his horrible day and his trying life, with eternal hope for a better day tomorrow.
When El Nica opened at the Cafe Britt Theater on January 19, 2002 it was planned for only a one month run. Kathy worked there before Matt as the “weekend girl,” and when the “weekend boy” quit, her boss said she wanted to hire someone she (Kathy) would get along with and work well with.
It seemed that no matter how much time they spent together, they never ran out of things to say.
They share a love of music, and in the early stages of their relationship would drive around for hours not ready to leave one another and just listen to music.
She was working two jobs at the time, and on Friday’s would go straight from one job to the next.
The moment when we read our vows to one another and promised to be with each other for the rest of our lives was so powerful to me. There isn’t much time to just enjoy one another because you’re so preoccupied greeting guests and being pulled in a hundred different directions at once, but having that first look gave Matt and I a moment for just the two of us. Regardless of whether you are just starting out dating or getting ready to tie the knot, there is nothing more important than making sure you and your other half are on the same page. I hope you’ll grab a cup of coffee (in a cute coffee mug), stay awhile & catch up on all the latest happenings! They sit impatiently in the ingenious little playhouse of the Cafe Britt coffee company, set in the hills just outside San Jose, Costa Rica.
Drenched in sweat, with bloody elbows and knees, El Nica limps into his solitary one-room living quarters made up of a small table, wooden chair and tiny bed that sits under a window looking out on his newly adopted home, Costa Rica.
The icon of Jesus is the straight man for Melendez' brilliant tragic-comic stage work, "I've got nothing to say to you dam it" says El Nica to Jesus, his strength returning to him. This wave of Nicaraguans (many of them undocumented upon arrival) come to Costa Rica in the desperate hope of finding a decent wage to support their families back home. At the sold-out performance I attended in mid-September, his monologue drew both nervous and hearty laughs, mixed with eerie silence and watery eyes. Their forces fought well and were critical in the success of combined Central America troops' defeat of Walker's army during a series of gruesome battles.


Costa Rica already a predominantly Caucasian country, became even whiter, Nicaragua very much a mixture of indigenous and Spanish, became yet more mestizo.
In 1948 a new constitution was created, one that would make it the pride of Latin American democracy for the rest of the century.
A prerogative guaranteed by a 100 year-old treaty between the two countries that allowed for Costa Rican "commercial traffic" on the San Juan River. Nonetheless, Costa Rican social problems, like rising crime, are blamed on Nicaraguan immigrants, not to mention that many Costa Ricans just don't like having so many Nicas in their little country. He accuses Jesus of not doing his job properly as the Son of God, at times screaming, in change crying, as he describes his day. In previous, non-Cafe Britt, performances of the monologue, this series of clear-eyed and brutally direct judgments on Costa Rican-Nicaraguan relations have rewarded actor Cesar Melendez with audience heckling, sudden "power failures" in theaters and even the stage being showered by rocks in one outdoor presentation. The audience watches in total silence as El Nica, now chilly, wraps himself in a blue and white blanket. One night, when it was finally time to say goodnight, they hugged, and she got in her car, he got in his, and they both drove away. One particular Friday, Matt offered to drive into her first job and pick her up to take her to her second. I have never been happier in my life than I was telling the man I love that I am forever his.
Every relationship will have its ups and downs, but how you handle each situation will determine how successful and solid your relationship will be.
El Nica is the creation of Nicaraguan born, Costa Rica raised, actor and singer Cesar Melendez.
The superb monologue of Cesar Melendez is a frontal attack on treatment of "Nicas", by Costa Rican society.
The effect even has reached a government level, demonstrated by the heart-warming words of the new Costa Rican Minister of Labor who stated to Nicaragua's daily, La Prensa, in October 26 of this year, "we must eliminate xenophobia, confrontations and every day become more brotherly".
In colonial times Costa Rica was a sleepy province, nearly unpopulated, politically administrated by Guatemala, with the Bishop of Leon in Nicaragua running the Costa Rican Church. After Walker was finally expelled, Costa Rica's army remained, occupying the coveted trans-oceanic route of the San Juan River, Lake Nicaragua and the ultra-fertile isthmus of Rivas. Nicaragua meanwhile had enjoyed years of political and economic stability, but at the cost of a most un-democratic Somoza family dictatorship.
A letter to the editor of the San Jose periodical La Nacion, from a native of Guanacaste, complained that "Simply because our skin is a little brown and we have some Indian features, we are objects of ridicule".
In 1998 Costa Rica's National Guard was caught patrolling inside Nicaragua on the San Juan River in a camouflage-painted boat, with mounted machine-gun and automatic rifles at the ready. The stage piece of Cesar Melendez, El Nica, is directed at Costa Rica's collective consciousness on Nicaraguan immigration and cross-country relations. After a full day of breaking concrete under the Costa Rican sun ("dam it little brother, isn't it supposed to be cooler here?"), his Costa Rican boss invites him for a fraternal beer at the local canteen. He begs forgiveness for being hungry, for crossing the Rio San Juan at night illegally, which cost the life of his only child, swept away by the midnight river current. Writhing on the floor alone, Cesar Melendez acts out the dozens of punches and blows that fell upon El Nica.
In the words of Costa Rica's biggest newspaper, La Nacion, "The theatre, which holds 200, made room for 600 on opening night. My heart be still… I love all of the blue, the little dog in her tutu, the abundance of sunflowers, and completely cute “better together” hanging wood slice signs!!
No one knew at the time that the two would end up in a relationship that would one day lead to marriage!! But because neither of them were looking for a serious relationship at the time, agreed that going to see Avatar together was no big deal.
But when he came to get her, she told him that she didn’t want to go to her second job, that she just wanted to spend the rest of the evening with him. Many, many thanks to Britt Croft Photography for sharing their very special day with us today! There's a new blog post all about CHOOSING productivity as a small business owner on the blog today (click the link in my profile)!! The play's two-hour monologue takes its audience on a tragic and humorous trip through the trials and terrors of being Nicaraguan in Costa Rica.
Where were you when I needed you?!" Thus begins the history of El Nica, an immigrant worker who has received his first payday in the land of democracy, progress and justice.
Incredibly, and to credit of the Costa Rican people, the play has not only been well received, but is a complete success, with all of its weekly performances at the little Cafe Britt's playhouse having sold out since its debut in January of this year.
In 1812 Spain decided to award Nicaragua's southernmost province of Guanacaste to Costa Rica, so Costa Rica could achieve the minimum population to qualify as a colonial state. As the revolution in Nicaragua against Somoza took up speed in 1978, the Costa Rican's left their comfort as a neutral state and allowed the Sandinistas to use their country as a base for attacks and administrative center for the rebel government.
According to the same book The Costa Ricans, as late as the 1970's, tourist brochures in Costa Rica boasted of the "whiteness" of its country. Nicaraguans, offended, talked about Guanacaste being "stolen" and pointed to reports by international human rights groups that documented abuse of Nicaraguan immigrants by Costa Rica's armed forces. In the bar he learns gratefully that he will have another contract job, albeit for longer hours and the same pay. El Nica asks to be pardoned to be from Nicaragua, a country of world-renowned poets and writers, a country where people love and promote their own culture, a country where people live outside of their houses, help each other in times of crisis, speak much too loudly, laugh without restraint and congregate in parks.


It is a horribly physical scene, one that no doubt takes all of the actor's energy to perform week after week.
He sings some more, then shivers, still cold, "Jesus, what a cold country, this!" and he pulls out a second blanket, this time a Costa Rican flag and the audience erupts in spontaneous patriotic applause.
When they arrived at “Jewel Hollow” overlook, they started walking down a trail that led out to a huge rock overlooking the Shenandoah Valley. I'm a voracious reader, obsessive organizer, mug collector, repeat movie watcher, todo list maker, Apple snob, and almost never on time. Guanacaste had been largely ignored by Nicaragua, yet even today it remains very different from the rest of Costa Rica retaining a certain Nicaraguan flavor. Under occupation of the Costa Rican armed forces, Nicaragua's post-war government signed a treaty that provided for the withdrawal of Costa Rican troops, but under the condition that Costa Rica would receive land until the southern border of the San Juan River (east of El Castillo) and annex formally Guanacaste to Costa Rica.
For Nicaraguans who are mainly ethnically indigenous and mestizo with strong indigenous traits, refuge in Costa Rica became a mixed blessing. Nicaraguans understood that Costa Rica's National Guard was looking for possible immigrants to Costa Rica - inside Nicaragua's territory. El Nica quips, "They say cheap Nicaraguan labor is making Costa Rican construction more profitable. His strong faith in God and Jesus failing him ("where the hell were you when I needed you?"), El Nica rises to his feet to confront the drunken hecklers.
Dragging his fingernails across his forearm and through his scalp with angst, El Nica cries for pardon for his brown skin, black eyes and Indian straight hair. Finally, while El Nica is on the ground being kicked in the back and stomach, one of the workers destroys his knee. No, really, the heart shaped “we do” cake toppers all the way to the burlap bunting signs and wood slice coasters with adorable owl image stamped on top. She quickly rolled down the window to make sure everything was alright and he just bent down and kissed her before walking back to his own car.
He’d called in advance to have her scheduled off the whole weekend and then showed her the back seat of the car where he’d packed practically her entire closet so he didn’t forget anything. Matt started filming the view (which was absolutely breathtaking) on his cell phone before setting it down, getting down on one knee, and asking Kathy to “marry me”. He encloses his hard earned money, save one note for himself, in three separate envelopes, all addressed to family in Nicaragua. After independence from Spain was achieved by the Central American states just nine years later, the people of Guanacaste voted to determine whether to rejoin Nicaragua or become part of Costa Rica. Today Guanacaste is home to many of Costa Rica's most profitable tourist destinations, including the Monterverde Cloud Forest, Arenal Volcano and numerous Pacific beach resorts.
After the victory against Somoza, Costa Rica became a base once again for armed attacks on Nicaragua, this time for war against the Sandinista government by the "Contras" southern front. Costa Rican warned of an international legal fight in The Hague, even putting future court battle monies in its national budget proposal.
Instead of going to blows, El Nica resorts to a long, brilliant and deeply ironic socio-anthropological dissection of the broad differences in Nicaraguan and Costa Rican character, lifestyle and historical influences. He asks for sincere forgiveness for the hunger that pains his stomach and even worse his conscious, too aware of his family in Nicaragua, and how they rely on his remittances to eat. El Nica crawls home, in this verbal history of his day recounted to Jesus, and once again he is angry with Christ. After the play's final words, Cesar Melendez stands up exhausted and takes his bows to a prolonged standing ovation. It was completely and utterly perfect and to this day Kathy is so glad that that “moment” passed them by because the one that came next was infinitely better because of it! The most amazing part of all of this was that when he’d set his phone down, he hadn’t turned it off. What follows is a scathing attack on the treatment of Nicaraguan immigrants in Costa Rica, one that blends the brilliant humor of Cesar Melendez with the sad, tearful real-life drama of being desperate for work, brown skinned and marginally literate in Costa Rica. Though concrete evidence of this vote's numerical results is hard to come by, most reports indicate that the southern portion of Guanacaste favored San Jose and the northern Managua.
In 2002 new president of Costa Rica Abel Pacheco has taken a more conciliatory stance and negotiation for renewed Costa Rica rights to navigate inside Nicaragua appear to have made progress, though Costa Rican troop movements inside Nicaragua remains an impasse for both countries.
This emotional section of the monologue is based largely on an editorial titled "I too am Nicaraguan" by Costa Rican writer Rodrigo Soto (sited by Cesar Melendez as the inspiration for his work), which appeared in local newspaper La Nacion in 1997. With ironic humor he blames the Lord for his own lack of restraint, but not for his life, his life's luck, or lack of it.
With the house lights up, he looks into the eyes of the Costa Rican audience, his own eyes full of a stirring mixture of vindication and compassion. The camera kept rolling and the entire proposal (including Kathy crying her eyes out as she told him yes) was caught on film! These same reports claim the south won, yet the province remained, in essence, independent until 1858. To the benefit of the Costa Rican economy, which was buoyed by cheap labor, but to the dismay of many Costa Ricans, xenophobia was on the rise.



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