Katherine Peters’ New Blog:

Reflections from the backwaters

Katherine Peters is an intercultural educator, Spanish professor, and former Assistant Director of ICADS in Costa Rica. Check out and follow her new blog “New Backwater” and her reflections on her time in Costa Rica.

What is a “new backwater?” The term “backwater”usually means that a place is considered backwards, undeveloped, undesirable. Often it refers to rural areas. These are places from which we get fisheries, farming and ranching, tourism and recreation, mining, and increasingly financial outposts. They are also places with histories of conflict, exploitation, and violence. I hope to reflect on the beautiful and valuable aspects of these backwaters, things like simplicity, natural beauty, and community, while also exploring the ability of backwaters to leave behind the hurtful and conflictive aspects of their histories and presents.

Check out all of Kat’s posts at newbackwater.com

Here is an excerpt from: “Reflections from the backwaters” 

The coffee and bananas exported from Costa Rica starting at the beginning of the twentieth century were part of an export economy and political phenomenon known as “Banana Republics” that changed all parts of the American continent forever. South Dakota’s near extermination and current isolation of its American Indian tribes is a painful history and reality to this day, and its farming tradition provides a lens into national and global economics and politics. Northwest Indiana drained its Kankakee Marsh, once compared to the majesty of Yellowstone by Theodore Roosevelt, for farmland, and the development of the steel mills and oil refineries on the Lake led to a boom and bust economy and racial tensions that are far from healed.


The globalized financial economy has a home in each of these places, with call centers and free trade zones in Costa Rica, credit card companies and health care conglomerates in South Dakota, and industry and money laundering in NW Indiana. White supremacy exists (abounds?) in each place. Culture wars and political battlefields are evident.


In all of the pain and all of the beauty in these backwaters, I have found homes. I can both love and hate all of these places, as anyone who has truly loved will understand. In this blog I hope to reflect for myself and share with you some of what I have experienced and learned in all of these marvelous backwater homes of mine.

Part of what I would like to do with this blog is to share with you some of the things that I learned – about science, about justice and sustainability, about life – while working at the Institute for Central American Development Studies (ICADS) in Costa Rica for nearly eight years. I was the Assistant Director there, and I also taught in the Field Program (doing field research with college students in both the natural and social sciences) and in the Internship Program (accompanying students as they accompanied communities and organizations throughout Costa Rica and Nicaragua).

If you would like to read more from Kat from her time here at ICADS check out her paper on Urban gardens in Curridabat during her maternity leave.


More Posts

Politics and Religion Through Costa Rican History

Religion, gender, and politics are difficult topics to talk about in Costa Rica, and believe it or not they’re always related. Kattia Castro Flores, an ICADS speaker, is a mother, theologist, and feminist (although it sounds contradictory) has been studying for years the relationship of these three items, and how they affect people.

Community Partner Forum:

ICADS Staff members Anthony Chamberlian and Gabriel Vargas had the chance to attend the Community Partner Forum (CPF) organized by the GESI Staff of the Buffet Institute for Global Studies at Northwestern University. Gabriel tells us his experience in this blog post!