Edison Soto Lopez
One of the first evangelical families in Costa Ricaby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
The following interview was conducted in Spanish and translated to English by an 11th grade US citizen who was born and raised in Central America by evangelical missionaries. A one minute, one Megabite wav file commentary on unions and communism is here.
Please tell me your name and birth date.
Edison Soto Lopez. 1923. Edison.you can spell that easily. It's an American name.
What was it like for your family during the Great Depression of the
That was the time I was about 13. My dad worked in a textile factory. There were no cars. Back then everyone was friendly and we didn't have to lock doors. No one had jobs and there were a lot of problems. I remember people would go to the theaters because it was very cheap and that is how we found out about Hitler and Franco.
How has transportation changed?
When cars first started coming I remember we had big diesel buses that would take 30 minutes to warm up before you could drive them. Everyone started to ride in those instead of the carriages we had. Do you know what those are? They were things led by horses. They could hold five or six people each. Everyone would ride them and they would drop us off at our house. None of the roads were paved. Cars didn't exist here yet until Ford brought them in the 40s. There were no ditches so all the water would go to the middle of the road.
Have you ever traveled to another country? What do you think of America
becoming so powerful?
I have never left Costa Rica. I once came close to going to Panama to repair the Canal but the factory here where I was working gave me a raise, so I stayed. The furthest I've traveled is to Limon! I worked at the port. That is where all the imports came from, so I saw all the products. We would trade our coffee for Spam and sewing machines from America. I've always liked Americans- the good ones. There are good ones and bad ones, like everything. I've always admired them. They also helped a lot in Christianizing Costa Rica. Costa Rica and America have always been good allies. They helped the economy a lot. In the 40s cars started coming in and we began to trade by exporting canned fruit, coffee, cotton, and other things, so a lot of factories went up. When [President] Kennedy came he helped a lot. The Peace Corps helped us build bridges and roads and buildings. America has always helped us so we like them.
How has the spread of Communism affected Costa Rica?
Communism was a huge problem in Costa Rica! Costa Rica has always been very liberal politically. President Calderon1 was liberal, but he was smart. He gave away medicine and things. He came back from Mexico with communism though. Communism invaded Mexico with Trotsky when he left Russia. Calderon came back from Mexico and he wanted to be a dictator, not president. With his communism a lot of unions were set up. A lot of factories were closed down because of the unions. Fortunately, Costa Rica straightened up and began to build relations with America again.
Why do you think Costa Rica does not have a bloody history like a
lot of other Central American countries?
Costa Rica doesn't have a very bloody history because they did not give in to communism like a lot of others. There was a man named William Walker who wanted to conquer and be dictator of all of Central America. So he fought for communism in a lot of countries and had a good control of Nicaragua. The reason it didn't work for Costa Rica was that the people united to fight when the other countries lied down. We fought with everything!2 We had a man named Juan Santamaria, a drummer boy, who went and defeated William Walker.3
Would you like to comment on the civil war in 1948?
Calderon took his money and ran to Mexico. Calderon and Mora were communist pigs, but Figueres was against communism. I had 50 relatives die in that war. I went away and hid because I didn't want to be in war. Back then the system was corrupt and one person could vote ten times. But after the war they changed it so one person gets one vote. Calderon was friends with a man named Mora, who was being paid by Russia!
How have changes in culture and family impacted your family?
Costa Rica has always been influenced by Christianity but when divorce hit it hit hard. Now people are married for 3 months and they get divorced! They have no value for raising their kids in a family and giving them education and religion. Personally, my parents divorced almost right after I was born. I was raised by my grandparents.
What do you think about Nicaraguan culture and its impact on Costa
Nicaraguans brought a serious problem. The Nicaraguan men are used to having five or six women and putting them to work. When they came they brought that culture over. Of course, the Costa Rican men like that! But a big problem is that we used to have good trade with Nicaragua. They had a lot of good workers. But now so many came over here and took our jobs. Now we can't trade because they have nothing to give us, and we can't work because they are doing our jobs. One Nicaraguan took my job at the factory. They get hired because they are used to working for a lot less.
What is the roll of the Catholic Church in Costa Rican politics?
The Catholic Church has a very, very, very strong influence on Costa Rica. It has weakened a lot lately though. Around 1910 a lot of Jesuits were sent here to counter Protestantism, which was growing a lot. The Catholic Church has a very high position in politics. Church workers are paid by the government, get special privileges; they give and take away from whoever they want. The Pope that just died helped the Church here a lot. Back in 1910 they did not allow people to talk about Christianity.
Do you know what "Liberation theology"5
is? What do you think?
Oh yeah, I have read books about that. I have studied it a lot. I never liked it because it was a mix of paganism with Christianity. Those theologians were very low quality. A theologian needs a heart that has been tested and approved by God.
Do you remember being discriminated against as an evangelical in
a Roman Catholic culture?
Yes, there was a time when if you weren't Catholic you couldn't even go to school. I suffered a lot because when I was working in my factory, even though I was very good at my job, people did not really talk to me because they knew I was a Christian. My dad also worked there before me and they knew about him.6 Being a Christian always brings problems with people. If someone talks about God they call him a lunatic or fanatic. But talking about soccer or women or liquor would get you good friends. But now there is not much discrimination because everything is about tolerance.
What would you say to a Roman Catholic reading this interview who
might become a Christian?
I would tell them to read the Bible because a lot of people really don't know much about it, they just know about catechisms and what people have told them. Also, the most important thing is salvation. God's plan is for every human to be saved. I don't like talking about saints and superstitions to become saved. God's plan was to bring Jesus Christ to save humans.
Thank you very much for letting me interview you.
You're welcome. If you have any more questions you can always ask me later.
up5 Liberation theology, defined by Merriam-Webster: a religious movement especially among Roman Catholic clergy in Latin America that combines political philosophy usually of a Marxist orientation with a theology of salvation as liberation from injustice.