Greetings from Nosara, Costa Rica! (Yes, I AM bragging.) It’s February 19th, I am sitting at a quaint and tiny local beach restaurant sipping a Mojito, appreciating a beautiful breeze off the Pacific, “feeling the burn” of a delicious 85 degrees, and watching the local fishermen negotiate the sale of fresh catch from their boats. (Now I am really, really bragging!)
I just finished a delightful conversation with a local Tico (how Costa Ricans refer to each other) named O’Hare. His English was OK and my Spanish non-existent, but we enjoyed a memorable conversation nonetheless.
Interesting Conversation #1: I asked O’Hare if he had traveled much. He said he’d only been out of Costa Rica once in his life when he was hired as a translator to help a business friend pick up an airplane in Texas. But, he was denied a Visa to enter the USA. (“You have no good reason to visit the USA,” he was told.) He found it curious that working as a translator for a legitimate businessperson didn’t qualify as a good reason for entering our country. He made it as far as the Tex-Mex border and then had to settle for looking at McAllen, Texas from Pharr, Mexico. Despite this disappointment, O’Hare said he still dreams of going to the USA, especially Alaska.
Interesting Conversation #2: O’Hare asked where we were from? Often when we travel abroad, we simply tell people we are from a city near Chicago. Seldom has anyone in Europe or Central America ever heard of Wisconsin, much less Milwaukee or Grafton, Wisconsin; although we do, of course, run into our share of Packer fans everywhere in the world. (Another great brand!) But for some reason, I told O’Hare we were from Milwaukee. “Oh, Milwaukee,” he exclaimed, “I love Milwaukee!” “For the beer?” I asked him. “No”, he said, “I love Milwaukee Tools! They are the best. I have used them all my life. They last forever and you can get parts everywhere!” So O’Hare is a construction worker from Costa Rica, a little and still developing country located in the middle of Central America, as the crow flies about 2,000 miles from the USA, and about ¾’s of the size of our West Virginia. He has never been to the USA, but he loves Milwaukee. How cool is that?
As much as Conversation #2 elates me and makes me proud of the city where I conduct much of my business, Conversation #1 saddens me. More and more, I believe our politicians, the media, and unfortunately, many Americans are destroying the United States Brand. Without digging too deep into the political morass and controversies surrounding immigration, I will just say I hope America and Americans figure out how to return to a more welcoming culture. It’s what made our American brand and our uniquely American country great!