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(506) 223-1327            Published Monday, Jan. 29, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 20             E-mail us    
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A.M. Costa Rica/Noel Dekking
Sunday at Parque la Sabana brought out kites, fishline and the bikes
El Niño seems to be peaking and ready for a decline
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The phenomenon of El Niño is at its high point, and weather experts predict that decline is eminent and that the climate will return to normal by the second half of this year.

Still, Costa Rica experienced a dry year, thanks to the phenomenon in the Pacific. For example, September was the driest in Guanacaste over the last 30 years, according to a report from the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

El Niño is an increase in the temperatures of the Pacific Ocean around the Equator. Over the last month, the increase was about 1 degree centigrade above normal. This temperature increase is why Costa Rica has had a dry year, the experts said.

Over all, the north Pacific had 28 percent less rain in 2006, according to weather institute statistics. The Central Pacific was down 8 percent, and the Caribbean and the northern zone were down about 16 percent. The institute said that the Central Valley had from a 1 percent deficit to an amount of 9 percent above normal, while the south Pacific was up about 3 percent.
Although less rain was a bonus for vacationers, the agricultural industry suffered from the droughts, mostly in inland Guanacaste, and those in charge of generating power with hydro plants are expressing concern about the lower water levels.

With El Niño at its high point, nearly all weather models expect the phenomenon to decline slowly through February to May.

Weather experts credit El Niño for affecting the hurricane cycle. Only five hurricanes and four tropical storms took place during 2006.

And none threatened Costa Rica with their backlash. September was the most active month with four hurricanes.

The dry weather is good for the Pacific beaches. Liberia, for example, had 50 percent humidity Sunday and temperatures between 19.6 C (67.3 F.) and 33.6 C. (92.5 F.) along with winds up to 48.8 kph (30.3 mph)

In San José the overnight low was 16.5 C. (61.7 F). The high was 23.3 C (74 F.). The highest winds were 34.4 kph (21.4 F.)


Kite man has been on the job for 36 years in the same location
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Nobody likes a sunny day more that 76-year-old Neftalí Castro Cárdenas, who for 36 years has been making and selling kites at Parque la Sabana.

Castro said that he remembers when some of the trees in the park were only just a bit taller than he. Since then he has always been found in the same spot on the southern side of the lake.

The Costa Rica native said that he makes the kites with bamboo found in the park for the skeleton and with  newspaper, plastic, and other materials that he buys from an artisan shop for the rest.  Kites range from 1,200 to 1,500 colons, some $2.30 to $2.90, and on a good day he has sold as many as 50, he said.

Sundays in these summer months are the best for sales, but Castro said that he will be out there any day of the year that is nice enough.  On rainy days, he replied, simply, he waits for sunny ones.

A.M. Costa Rica/Noel Dekking
The kite man Neftalí Castro Cárdenas


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 29, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 20

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A.M. Costa Rica/Noel Dekking
Young skateboarders fly off steps in west San José, and not every one lands perfectly. Public buildings with their expanses of concrete are the favorite playgrounds.

Visiting former leaders
beat drum for free trade


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Oscar Arias Sánchez and a host of ex-presidents were in town over the weekend to participate in a roundtable discussion about Latin American democracy, trade and the effect of globalization.  Two of the main conclusions were that education systems need to be improved and that Latin American markets need to be opened to free trade.

The Círculo de Montevideo was hosted by the ex-president of Uruguay, Julio María Sanguinetti, and featured other past leaders such as Felipe González of Spain, Belisario Betancourt of Colombia, Fernando Enrique Cardoso of Brazil, and Ricardo Largos of Chile.

One of the justifications for the liberalization of markets came from Largos, saying that free trade is an instrument that brings security.  Chile has more than 50 free trade agreements with countries in Europe, Asia and South America. 

Arias said that if correctly managed, the process of moving Latin American markets into global exchange is the most efficient way for underdeveloped nations to reach the threshold of the industrialization.

Arias also said that the free market is more efficient than any other way to alleviate poverty, but added that systems that provide for the neediest should not be abandoned.  He went on to say that the failures in the present education system will be the failures in the economy of the tomorrow.

The event was entitled, “Estabilidad democrática y apertura: factores imprescindibles para la América Latina del siglo XXI” and was held in the Hotel Cariari Friday and Saturday.

Stiffer cable penalties proposed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Last year thieves stole 81 kilometers (40 miles) of installed copper cable worth about $230,000, so lawmakers are getting a proposal to make such a crime punishable by from four to 10 years in prison. Thefts of sewer covers and other utility metals also would be included.

The thefts usually are done by small-time drug addicts who peddle the wire to junk dealers.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 29, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 20






He's sharing love of calypso in movement's home province
By Annette Carter
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

He has a love of African rhythms as his motivation, an elderly calypso legend as his inspiration and a carload of musical instruments as his tools. So internationally recognized guitarist, composer and singer Manuel Monestel has set out to teach the young people of Cahuita on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast about their musical roots.

Monestel was in Cahuita from San José for the fourth in a series of six workshops designed to teach kids the history and techniques of calypso.  A concert will be held in Cahuita’s Centro Comunal the first or second Saturday in March to showcase the young musicians, as well as local Calypso bands and, if funding is found, Monestel’s internationally recognized group Cantoamerica.  Proceeds from the concert will benefit the construction of a senior center in Cahuita.

With its sassy rhythms and lyrics, calypso originated in Trinidad and Tobago but made its way to Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast with the early Jamaicans who first settled the area more than 100 years ago. 

The most notable Costa Rican calypsonian, Walter “Mr. Gavitt” Ferguson, still makes his home in Cahuita and, although now elderly and almost blind, he can been seen many days sitting outside his family’s Sol y Mar Restaurant and Cabins in front of Cahuita National Park.  It was Feruguson who inspired Monestel to study and perform calypso.

“I’ve been coming here to Cahuita for 30 years and I got interested in the town and the culture,” Monstel said. “Then about 20 years ago I met Walter Ferguson and learned about calypso music and realized that he is one of the greatest songwriters I’d ever met.”

At the time, Monstel was writing his own songs and experimenting with Caribbean rhythms. "I was trying to figure out musical expressions more connected to Costa Rican identities and began to realize calypso is a voice of expression for the Caribbean Limónese people," he said. 

“Coming from San José and the Central Valley, you never hear real Costa Rican music,” he said. “I always wondered why.”  Monestel says one day he came to the conclusion that the most popular music in the world comes from African diasporas and that there must be something in Limón, Costa Rica’s Afro-Caribbean province. 

So he made a trip to Limón to see how people were expressing their music and he read “What Happen: A Folk History of Costa Rica’s Talamanca Coast” by Paula Palmer. It was Palmer, who introduced him to the retired Ferguson who gave Monestel permission to record some of his songs, two of which are featured on his CD “One Pant Man.” 

A.M. Costa Rica/Annette Carter
Manuel Monestel demonstrates to a student

Another town elder, Alpheus Buchanan, encouraged Monestel to consider coming to Cahuita to teach calypso to the kids and share his experiences.  But his work in San Jose did not allow him the time or money to travel regularly to Cahuita to teach. Now, many years later, it is a grant from the Centro Cultural de España that has finally allowed him to establish the school workshops both in Cahuita and in the Central Valley communities of Alajuela and Heredia. 

Although a bit timid and with the furrowed brows of concentration, the Cahuita kids seem to move naturally as they beat the tumba and shake the maracas. 

“The kids have the natural attitude towards calypso, but (the workshops) are more to motivate them to go back to their cultural roots,” Monestel said.  “There are a few kids here who are really interested and have the feeling for it.  I know the ones who feel the music will keep going.”

Monestel said possible next steps, with the proper funding, would be to create a more permanent place to teach the kids, getting local calypso musicians involved in the process and creating an entertainment venue which would allow local musicians to earn a living, provide family entertainment for the local community and create more of a cultural tourism industry for Cahuita.

Tickets for the benefit concert are 1,000 colons each.  For information on the specific date send an e-mail to info@travelcaribbeancostarica.com.  Information on the only two CDs released by Walter Ferguson can be found at http://walterferguson.calabashmusic.com and further information on Manuel Monestel and song samples are at http://manuelmonestel.calabashmusic.com.


Another saying related to the universal love of good gossip
Cuando el río suena — piedras trae
 

“When the river babbles, it carries stones.” This dicho has to do with gossip, suspicion and stealth.
 
My grandmother often used this expression to buttress some piece of gossip she was promulgating. She would say that of course you can’t believe everything you hear, but when the water gurgles it means there is something beneath the surface. In other words, at the bottom of many a rumor there is often a kernel of truth.
 
When I was in high school I had a very good friend who was always pining away because she didn’t have a boyfriend. She was very fair complexioned and came from an extremely white family background. Her problem stemmed from the fact that she was attracted to young men of color.

My best high school chum, as it turned out, happened to be black, and she was totally smitten with his older brother.  Of course, in no time at all the gossip mill was churning out rumors about the young lady and my friend’s brother. But knowing them both as I did, I simply ignored all the tattle that swirled around them.
 
Then one day my grandmother called me into the kitchen and asked me if it was true that my friend was pregnant.

I answered that I did not know, but I didn’t think so because I was very close with this girl and believed she would have told me if such were the case. But my grandmother just wagged her finger at me and said Cuando el río suena — piedras trae.
 
My grandmother’s insistence that there must be some truth to the fairly seamy gossip that was circulating about my friend infuriated me. So, the next day I asked her, as delicately as I could, if she were pregnant.

She replied in the negative but wanted to know why I would think this. I answered that all the gossip that had been circulating about her had finally made its way to my grandmother, and this had caused me some concern.
 
My friend’s explanation was that she had recently been to the gynecologist for a check up and had asked him for a prescription for birth control pills. So someone must have seen her at the doctor’s office and automatically assumed the worst, or perhaps the girl at the pharmacy who’d filled the prescription had started some sort of tattle that had ballooned out of all proportion to reality.

The
way we say it

By Daniel Soto


In any case, I was satisfied with my friend’s interpretation of events, and when I got home I confronted my grandmother with it. No matter, she replied, because the source of her information in this case was absolutely impeccable and would not have told her a lie. I was getting angrier by the second and demanded that she reveal this source, but she flatly refused.
 
When my mother got home that evening I told her the whole story and asked her to prevail upon my grandmother to either divulge the name of her source or to stop spreading malicious gossip about my dear friend.

My mother went to talk to my grandmother in her room, and presently I was summoned. Grandmother disclosed that the person who had told her of my friend’s pregnancy was the girl’s own mother!
 
I was shocked and hurt, not because the truth of the rumor now appeared undeniable, but because my friend had obviously not seen fit to confide in me. The next day I challenged her with what my grandmother had told me. But she only gave me a little sardonic smile and said: Cuando el rio suena — piedras trae.
 
We have not spoken since that day, though I heard ­ as was the custom in those days ­ that she had gone off to the United States to “study,” and when she returned she was married to the brother of my high school pal and they brought with them a delightful, honey-skinned baby girl.

This child has grown into a charming young woman of quite stunning beauty, as I discovered when I was introduced to her recently at a cocktail party. I did not ask after her mother.



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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 29, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 20



San José
after dusk

An early evening view west on Avenida 4 contains no traffic because the street is torn up as part of the plan to put in a pedestrian walkway. New lighting already is in place.

A.M. Costa Rica/Noel Dekking


Chávez threatens to kick out U.S. ambassador over nationalization comments
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. State Department has expressed continued confidence in the U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, William Brownfield.

The comments come one day after Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said he may ask the U.S. envoy to leave after the diplomat made remarks about Chavez's nationalization plans.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday that such threats are an often-used tactic by the Venezuelan government to distract attention from other problems. He said Brownfield will continue doing his work as the U.S. representative in Caracas.

Ambassador Brownfield told the media in Caracas Thursday that Chavez's planned state takeover of 
telecommunications firm CANTV should be done in a legal and transparent way, and its owners and investors should be fairly compensated.

Chávez has already said he will not offer shareholders market value after the takeover of CANTV is complete. U.S.-based telecommunications giant Verizon holds a large share of CANTV.

The president accused Brownfield of meddling in Venezuela's internal affairs, and warned him that he could be considered "persona non grata" and asked to leave the country.

Washington has accused the Venezuelan president of becoming increasingly authoritarian and being a destabilizing force in the region. Chavez is a fierce critic of the United States and has become a close ally of Cuban President Fidel Castro.


Chairman of U.S. Joint Chiefs praises Colombia as example in narcotics fight
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Colombia’s intense counternarcotics efforts could have value for Afghanistan, says Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

During a trip Jan. 18 and 19 to Colombia, Pace said Afghanistan can learn from the Colombian experience in its own battle against the cultivation of illegal drugs.

Pace, meeting the press in Colombia, praised “the model that is present here in Colombia where the Armed Forces of the country have rid certain areas of terrorists and then, very importantly, the government has followed with projects that have brought electricity and water and jobs.”

He also cited a Colombian program that allows individuals
who had been members of armed insurgent groups to “lay down their arms, and be supported in an education process by this government that allows them to become a productive part of society.”

“Those kinds of outreach programs by the Colombian government,” said Pace, “are a good model for President Karzai to consider as he looks at how to reduce the amount of drug trafficking in his country and provide stability and jobs for his citizens.”

Pace thanked Colombia for reaching out to help Afghanistan by sending teams of Colombian counternarcotics experts “to go sit and talk” about the issue with relevant members of the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. As chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Pace is the nation's highest-ranking military man.


Intel Corp. says it has made dramatic new advance with chip materials
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Intel Corp., a microchip producing company with holdings in Costa Rica, has announced that dramatic advancements in computer chip design will increase processor speed.
 
The innovation is the use of two new materials inside the processors for the insulating walls and switching gates of its 45-nanometer transistors.  Transistors are tiny switches that process the ones and zeros of the digital world and the gate turns the transistor on and off.

The company will use a new material with a property called high-k, for the transistor gate dielectric, and a new combination of metal materials for the transistor gate
 electrode.  Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel Corp. said that the use of high-k and metal materials marks the biggest change in transistor technology since the late 1960s.

The new chip design allows the company to continue to increase processor speeds, while reducing the amount of electrical leakage from transistors that can hamper chip and PC design, size, power consumption, noise and costs, said a release from Intel Corp.

Hundreds of millions of these microscopic transistors – or switches – will be inside the next generation of processors. The company also said it has five early-version products up and running, the first of 15 45nm processor products planned from Intel.



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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 29, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 20


Surf competition will be in Playa Hermosa this weekend
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Circuito Nacional de Surf will be rolling into Playa Hermosa, on the Central Pacific this weekend and bringing the nighttime parties and bikini competitions along.

Competition should be intense at Copa Mango, the fifth event of the tour, as the top three spots in the open championship are separated by less than 150 points, which means that all three are in contention.

Leading the way after a stellar performance at the last event is Diego Naranjo of Playa Jacó, with 1,620 points.  In the
 second and third positions are Luis Castro with 1,498 points, and Isaac Vega with 1,488.  Natalie Bernold, who is just 13-years-old, is leading both the women's open and junior classes.

The surf competition will be set up behind Hotel Backyard, about four kilometers south of Jacó, where events such as Miss Chica Surf, a reggae sunset party and bikini competition will all be open to the public.

Registration for the event is on Feb. 2 between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Mango beach store in Jacó, said  the Federación de Surf de Costa Rica.


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