Looking for Pura Vida

Disgruntled Parents in Search of Educational Alternatives in Costa Rica


  • Lisa Lynn Porter James Madison University




expatriates, international education, white privilege, transnationalism


Using a transnational theoretical framework, this study explores U.S. families expatriating to Guanacaste, Costa Rica in search of educational alternatives to U.S. schooling. In order to meet the needs of this influx of U.S. families to the region, schools such as La Paz Community School in Flamingo, Guanacaste have emerged. This qualitative inquiry explores emergent themes from 16 semi-structured interviews conducted with US parents whose children attend La Paz. Findings reveal participants’ desire for a progressive educational alternative for their children that embraces a more collective vision of learning. For interviewees, frustrations with U.S. K-12 schools became symbolic of cultural criticism of US social norms and the desire to recreate a lifestyle removed from daily pressures in the United States.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Lisa Lynn Porter, James Madison University

Lisa Porter, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at James Madison University, Harrisonburg VA. Her major research interests include the sociology of education, transnational migration, and family and community studies. Email: porte2LL@jmu.edu


Basch, L., Glick Schiller, N., & Szanton Blanc, C. (1994). Nations unbound: Transnational projects, postcolonial predicaments, and deterritorialized nation-states. Amsterdam: Gordon and Breach Publishers.

Bauman, Z. (1998). Globalization: The human consequences. New York: Columbia University Press.

Chacón, M. (2018). Inmigrantes llegan a costa rica impulsados por la miseria. Retrieved from https://semanariouniversidad.com/universitarias/inmigrantes-llegan-a-costa-rica-impulsados-por-la-miseria/

Charmaz, K. (2014). More americans buying homes overseas. Retrieved from http://video.msn.com/v/us/v.htm? g=f11fe927-2110-42d2-b4f2-d339ff1660fc&f=15/64

Clemmitt, M. (2007). Students under stress. CQ (Congressional Quarterly) Researcher, 17(25), 577-600.

Cohen, R. (2008). Global diasporas: An introduction. London: Routledge Press.

Duncan, B., & Stevens, A. (2011). High-stakes standardized testing: Help or hindrance to public education. National Social Science Journal, 36(2), 35-43.

Farkas, S., & Duffet, A. (2015). Maze of mistrust: Parents, educators and the challenge of public engagement. National Civic Review.

Garcia, E., & Weiss, E. (2016). Making whole child education the norm. Economic Policy Institute. Retrieved from https://www.epi.org/publication/making-whole-child-education-the-norm/

Guarnizo, L., & Smith, M. (1998). The locations of transnationalism. Transnationalism from Below, pp. 3-34. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.

Harvey, D. (1991). The condition of modernity: An enquiry into the origins of cultural change. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Howells, J. (2003). Choose costa rica. Guilford, CT: The Globe Pequot Press.

Jackson, P., Crang, P., & Dwyer, C. eds. (2004). Transnational spaces. New York: Routledge Press.

Jehlen, A. (2007). Testing: How the sausage is made. NEA Today. Retrieved from http://www.nea.org/archive/11366.htm

La Paz Community School. (2018). Mission and objectives. Retrieved from https://www.lapazschool.org/

Ley, D., & Waters, J. (2004). Transnationalism and the geographical imperative. In Transnational Spaces, pp. 104-121. London: Routledge.

Lundstrom, C. (2014). White migrations: Gender, whiteness and privilege in transnational migration. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Luthar, S., & Brown, B. (2002). Privileged but pressured? A study of affluent youth. In Child Development, pp. 1593–1610.

Murchie, Annie G. (1981). Imported spices: The study of anglo american settlers in costa rica 1821-1900. In Costa Rica: Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, Department of Publications.

Nichols, S., & Berliner, D. (2007). Collateral damage: How high stakes testing corrupts america’s schools. Harvard, MA: Harvard Education Press.

Ong, A. (1999). Flexible citizenship: The cultural logics of transnationality. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Portes, A., Guarnizo, A., & Landolt, P. (1999). The study of transnationalism: Pitfalls and promise of an emergent research field. In Ethnic and Racial Studies, 22:217-237.

Rothstein, R., Wilder T., & Jacobsen, R. (2007). Balance in the balance. In Educational Leadership, 64(8), 8-14.

Silva, L., Barry, T., & Simonson, P. (1995). Inside costa rica: The essential guide to its politics, economy, society, and environment. Albuquerque, NM: Interhemispheric Resource Center.

Smith, M. (2003). Transnationalism, the state and the extraterritorial citizen. In Politics

and Society, 31(4), 467-502.

Stevens, D. (2012). 385,899 Foreigners live in costa rica. The Costa Rican Times. Retrieved from https://www.costaricantimes.com/385899-foreigners-live-in-costa-rica/1542

Van Rheenen, E. (2017). Living abroad in costa rica. Chico, CA: Moon Publications.

Weissbourd, R. (2011). The overpressured student. In Educational Leadership, 68(8), 22-27.

Westwood, S., & Phizacklea, A. (2000). Transnationalism and the politics of belonging. New York: Routledge.

Wilde, M. (2008). Are we stressing out our kids? Retrieved from http://www.greatschools.org/parenting/ teaching-values/stressed-out-kids.gs?content=645

Yeoh B., Willis, K., & Abdul Khader Fakhri, S. (2003). Introduction: Transnationalism and its edges. In Ethnic and Racial Studies, 26(2), 207-217.

Additional Files



How to Cite

Porter, L. L. (2019). Looking for Pura Vida: Disgruntled Parents in Search of Educational Alternatives in Costa Rica. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Education, 8(2), 1–20. https://doi.org/10.32674/jise.vi0.1179