Cold War Paradise


Cold War Paradise

Settlement, Culture, and Identity-Making among U.S. Americans in Costa Rica, 1945–1980

Atalia Shragai

338 pages
15 photographs, 1 illustration, 1 map, 2 tables, index


May 2022


$30.00 Add to Cart

May 2022


$99.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
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May 2022


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eBook (EPUB)
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May 2022


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About the Book

In the wake of the Cold War, a diverse group of U.S. immigrants flocked to Costa Rica, distancing themselves from undesirable U.S. policies at home and abroad. Enchanted with Costa Rica’s natural beauty and lured by the prospect of cheap land, these expatriates—former government employees, businessmen and privileged bourgeois, dissident Quakers and self-seeking hippies, farmers and ecologists—sought a new life in a country that was often dubbed the Switzerland of Central America.

Cold War Paradise is a social and cultural history of this little-studied immigration flow. Based on extensive oral histories of these immigrants and their diverse writings, ranging from women’s club cookbooks to personal letters, Atalia Shragai examines the motivations for immigration, patterns of movement, settlements, and processes of identity-making among U.S. Americans in Costa Rica from post–World War II to the late 1970s. Exploring such diverse themes as gender, nature, and material culture, this study provides a fresh perspective on inter-American relations from the point of view of ordinary U.S. emigrants and settlers. Shragai traces the formation and evolution of a wide range of identifications among U.S. expats and the varied ways they reconstructed and represented their individual and collective histories within the broader scheme of the U.S. presence in Cold War Central America.

Author Bio

Atalia Shragai is a lecturer of history at the Kibbutzim College of Education in Tel Aviv, Israel.


"Atalia Shragai's Cold War Paradise is a success. It makes apt insights about lifestyle migration, and the author packages measured observations with stories that resonate emotionally and convey a sense of profound intimacy with her subjects. It is a welcome contribution to the underdeveloped literature on privileged travelers in Latin America. It reminds us that the power imbalances affecting migration extend beyond the contexts of those who uproot their lives because of dire need or immediate threats. People benefiting from favored status and who are fortunate enough to exercise transnational mobility on their own terms often escape the cultural and social responsibilities typically demanded of travelers who lack similar wealth and position."—Pete Soland, H-Environment

"Shragai deserves high praise for producing an accessible and smart ethnography of US American identity formation in Cold War-era Costa Rica."—Carmen Coury, H-LatAm

“A critical intervention in global studies. Analyzing the migration of U.S. citizens to Costa Rica in search of a deterritorialized American Dream, Atalia Shragai challenges how we think about topics like diaspora, gender, and the natural world. With her creative use of oral history and ethnography, Shragai shows how new sources and methods can change our understandings of the past.”—Jeffrey Lesser, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor and director of the Halle Institute for Global Research at Emory University

“This is a very important subject if we are to understand an unexplored part of U.S. history from a global perspective: the migration of U.S. citizens to the world outside the American Dream. . . . This is a strong contribution to oral history and to the history of identity from an ethnographic perspective.”—David Díaz Arias, professor of history at the Universidad de Costa Rica

“A fascinating look at U.S. citizens living in Costa Rica during the Cold War. . . . Packed with interesting details and grounded in timely theoretical perspectives, this carefully researched book makes a valuable contribution to the growing scholarship on lifestyle migration specifically and global migration more generally.”—Sheila Croucher, professor of global and intercultural studies at Miami University

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Tables
1. Crossroads: The Movement of Individuals within the Sociopolitical Context
2. Places and Networks: Settlement, Community-Building, and Identity-Making
3. From Cowboys to the Guardians of Eden: Identity Work in Costa Rican Nature
4. Becoming a U.S. Woman in Costa Rica: Gender, Immigration, and Transnationalism
5. Material Culture on the Move: Things and Meanings between the United States and Costa Rica
6. Looking Back in Amazement: Negotiating Identities as Privileged Immigrants

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