Tico: A Photo Essay by Connor Sacks

“Tico” (feminine tica, plural ticos, ticas) is a colloquial term for a native of Costa Rica.


With the nickname “Switzerland of Central America”, it's no secret that Costa Rica has financially benefited from its friendly U.S. relations and tourism dominated economy. Their economy has been growing fast and many say too fast. Inflation rates have made many goods in Costa Rica (many grocery store items for example) on par with costs in the U.S. With a gross national income per capita of $6,810 compared to the United States $47,390 you can see where problems would arise. Despite the economic troubles that many Ticos face, most western tourists do not see this when visiting the country. This is because most of the tourist cities are separated from common towns in the country.

With hopes of getting an authentic Costa Rican experience, I took an exchange for work program where I spent two months living and working on a coffee plantation in the foothills of the Punta Arenas region. I left the farm and traveled the country often on my days off, shooting film the whole time.


The two photos above were taken in the capital San Jose. I loved San Jose, great street photography opportunities and cheap food. Whenever I told any Tico how I liked San Jose they were blown away. Nobody seemed to share this feeling, even people from San Jose.
Shot on Kodak Portra 400 with Canon AE-1

  Woman in surf. Manuel Antonio, CR. Shot on Ilford HP5 with Canon AE-1.     

Woman in surf. Manuel Antonio, CR. Shot on Ilford HP5 with Canon AE-1.



The above three photos were taken in the town of Miramar. Miramar was the closest town to the farm I was working on so I would hitch rides there after my days work to shoot. Unfortunately, I ended up being detained by the local police for shooting a photo of some kids. After getting through the point that I could not delete the photo because it was film they eventually let me go.
Shot on Ilford HP5 with Canon AE-1.


Shot from the road while driving from the Pacific to Caribbean side of the country. These photos capture the strength and force the local flora has. Shot on Kodak Portra 400 with Canon AE-1.   


Shot in the city of Puerto Limon from my car window. This city was beautiful but a bit dodgy, I didn’t feel 100% safe shooting on foot.
Shot on Kodak Portra 400 with Canon AE-1.

Closing Thoughts:
Costa Rica is an Ecotourism capital of the world but if you want my advice, skip the zip-lines and guided rain forest tours, travel the country by public bus and stop off for lunch in the small towns. The real warmth of the Tico spirit will be found in the towns between towns.


Connor is originally from Anaheim CA but has been living in San Francisco for the past 8 years. His hobbies include skateboarding, backcountry backpacking, and all things film photography.  Connect with Connor on his Instgram