Ah Facebook. And Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, YouTube. Name a social media platform and you can also name someone whose reputation — even whose life — has been made, radically transformed or ruined by it. Here are Costa Rica’s top five social media sensations of 2015.
1. Gerardo Cruz, Hero of Women
This young man’s rise to social media sensation began when he saw an older man apparently trying to point his cellphone camera up a woman’s skirt while she walked down a San José street. The 22-year-old Cruz whipped out his own cellphone and filmed the older man, then boldly confronted him — while still filming — and then posted the whole incident on Facebook. The video went viral and prompted a wave of outrage from women (and men) tired of vulgar catcalls and other forms of what’s become known as street harassment.
Watch Cruz’s video here:
Cruz’s fame might have ended there, but he was brutally attacked on a street near his home just south of the capital just a few days after he posted the video. He was reportedly on his way to a television interview. Cruz landed in the hospital where his survival was touch-and-go for a month. He died of a heart attack on Nov. 19. Police said at the time that they had no evidence that the young man’s social media crusading or his confrontation with the alleged pervert were related to the attack on him.
2. Óscar López, Twitter novice
This lawmaker and former presidential candidate from the Accessibility Without Exclusion Party surely wishes he hadn’t made this list. López was apparently coming down with a cold or flu virus in early December, and his brain must have been lost in a dense fog when he posted a photo of himself curled up in the fetal position on a couch — in his suit and tie — on Twitter. “I feel numb with cold, with aching bones and a little bit of a fever. How do you cure this?” he wrote in the Tweet.
López undoubtedly was hoping for some sympathy. He got very little. Within hours, dozens of memes popped up on social media featuring López’s image curled up on the set of Jurassic Park, in formation among a group of fit women at gym class, uselessly defending the goal during a football game, and on and on.
It wasn’t pretty for a national public figure who must want voters and colleagues to take him seriously. But some of the memes were belly-aching hilarious. We hope López got at least a few laughs out of the gaffe; they say laughter is an excellent cure when you’re feeling under the weather.
3. Narco Paloma
Costa Rica’s furry, feathered and scaled, social media sensations often outdo their human counterparts (we could’ve done a whole separate list; maybe next year). This year, a humble pigeon made headlines worldwide after flying into La Reforma prison sporting what looked like a black felt fanny pack stuffed full of marijuana and cocaine. Unfortunately for the pigeon, prison police caught on to its illicit activities, captured it, confiscated the goods and sent it to birdie jail, namely ZooAve Animal Rescue Center. The bird was reportedly given time because it is a non-native species, not because of its drug trafficking activities.
While the bird, nicknamed “Narco Paloma,” will likely spend the rest of its life behind bars, its legend lives on — on the Internet, on coffee mugs (created by @kabek) and in the dreams of inmates longing for a psychological escape from their own life behind bars. #FreeNarcoPaloma
4. The girl who frolicked with sea turtles
She looks so thrilled to be there among hundreds of slow-moving sea turtles trying to perform THE essential task of their lives: to reproduce. The image of the young woman, later identified as Emily Granados, flew around the world, causing outrage among many who saw in her radiant smile and Daisy Dukes complete indifference to the needs of the animals around her.
The Environment Ministry’s Workers Union reported on its Facebook page that hundreds of tourists had stood in the way of the turtles that day in early September, causing many of them to return to the sea without laying their eggs.
Granados later defended her actions in an interview with writer Diego Delfino that was published on Medium.com. She said she had gone to see the mass turtle arrival, called an arribada with an organized tour group. “They never told us we couldn’t walk near [the turtles] because that doesn’t bother them, only that we shouldn’t walk in front of them, which we didn’t.” Granados said she had to close her Facebook account for awhile because she was getting so many nasty messages from critics.
Following the bad publicity, local authorities outlined a plan to prevent further problems during upcoming arribadas. No major problems have been reported since.
5. Katy Perry’s Salsa Lizano
It’s hardly fair to include a mega-celebrity in a list of social media sensations in a small country like Costa Rica. But Katy Perry — or whoever manages her Twitter account — scored big time with Ticos when she posted the following tweet before playing a concert here on Oct. 19:
An international pop star — with close to 80,000 Twitter followers — who takes the time out of her busy social life to publicly praise Costa Rica’s autoctonous, indispensible condiment Salsa Lizano: What better compliment could there be?