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(506) 223-1327         Published Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 21            E-mail us
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Contraloría slams La Cruz for maritime zone faults
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Municipalidad de La Cruz in extreme northwest Costa Rica has come under fire from the nation's watchdog for its handling of the maritime zone.

The boundaries of the municipality include the northern shore of the Gulf of Papagayo, which is being developed by the government.

According to a report released Tuesday by the Contraloría General de la República, the municipality allowed some developers to write their own ticket by paying for zoning plans for beach development. These plans, planes reguladores, specify permitted uses of the land. In the case of La Cruz some development projects did not consider the laws governing protection of forested land and other environmental factors.

The zone, correctly called the Zona Marítimo Terrestre, is much sought after as concessions because the government will give a developer a long-term lease on the beach front from 50 meters to 200 meters above mean high tide. Many of the projects are for tourism.

The major finding of the report was that the municipality did not exercise sufficient effort to protect the public property. The report noted that only one person was in charge of the maritime zone for the municipality.

The Contraloría ordered that the municipality begin steps to demolish properties that have been placed illegally in the zone and to evict person who are living there.

The Contraloría also ordered that the municipality seek help from the Ministerio de Hacienda, the budgeting agency, to reevaluate the existing concessions for tax purposes. And it ordered the municipal council to beef up the budget for maritime zone oversight.

The report is significant because in addition to the municipality, the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo and the Instituto Nacional de Vivienda y
Urbanismo must sign off on  concessions.
map of la Cruz
Instituto Geográfico Nacional map
La Cruz is bordered on the south by the Municipalidad de Liberia

The first 50 meters of the zone above mean high tide is considered public property, and no development is permitted there. Nevertheless, the Contraloría said that structures had been placed there illegally.

And even in some areas where zoning plans exist, some of the uses were not permitted under the rules, the report said.

The Contraloría makes routing studies of municipalities. La Cruz is relatively undeveloped.

In other areas, such as Playas del Coco, Tamarindo in Santa Cruz and in Quepos, business structures had to be torn down.

The municipality includes the Parque Nacional Santa Elena. That area made news last year when a developer claimed title via a concession to a large percentage of the national police academy. Security officials rebuffed the claim and went to court.

In addition to Papagayo, the municipality includes the Gulfo Santa Elena and Playa Naranjo as well as the Isla Muruélago. It's northern border touches Nicaragua.

Government says it will see an extension in getting trade treaty set up
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Casa Presidencial said Tuesday that the country would seek an extension to approve legal changes implementing the free trade treaty with the United States and other Central American countries.

The country becomes the first in the world to need such an extension in implementing an agreement with Washington, said Casa Presidencial. In fact, the country will need approval from every nation that signed the treaty.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez was quoted as saying the country would make the request in the middle of February.

The release from Casa Presidencial blamed the obstructionism by the Partido Acción Ciudadana. That party, which has 17 members in the Asamblea Legislativa, has proposed many motions and failed to show up for some sessions.

Although the alliance put together by the
 government has 38 legislative members, a two-thirds majority, assembly rules require discussion of every motion and amendment.

There are 12 to 13 legal changers that have to be accomplished before Costa Rica will be certified as having implemented the free trade treaty.

These changes are at various stages in the Asamblea Legislativa. The original deadline was Feb. 29.

A statement from the Partido Acción Ciudadana said there was no such deadline. It said that the Feb. 29 date was just a deadline for Costa Rica to deposit the approved treaty with the Organization of American States.

The treaty was approved in a close vote Oct. 7.The political party said Arias was trying to trick the Costa Rican people.

The Ministerio de Comercio Exterior sent out a release later citing the specific section of the free trade agreement.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 21

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Swift justice promised
by criminal court magistrates

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Criminals caught red-handed will be slapped in jail and judged within five days, The nation's high criminal court said Tuesday.

The Sala III announced the proposals as part of a budget plan that will require 50 more judges and 50 more defense lawyers.

The president of the high criminal court,  José Manuel Arroyo, admitted that the magistrates were acting in response to growing public opinion against repeat offenders. There also is a growing public opinion against lack of prosecution and slow-moving legal processes.

The quick justice will involve cases of crimes against property, the magistrate said, identifying such crimes as thefts and robberies. Typically robbery is consider a crime against person because such an action involves force or threat of force against a victim.

The quick justice also would be applied to less severe crimes, known as contravenciones. Examples incluide causing damage to a vehicle, the Poder Judicial said. The plan also involves putting suspects in jail until a trial can be set up. Frequently suspects are allowed to go free in the hopes that they will show up with their trial is scheduled, Many do not and the overworked court system has trouble locating them.

Arroyo called this a pilot plan and said that the effort would have strict regard for due process and the right of a suspect to have a layer, call witnesses in for the defense and offer other proofs.

In any event the case will be resolved in five days, the magistrate promised. The Poder Judicial also noted that judges and others would be working 24-hour shifts.

Our reader's opinion
Take obvious steps to avoid
being a victim of crime

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I lived in Costa Rica for a total of just under 3 years.  I have my own experiences with crime. 

My car was broken into four times, my sweet mountain bike was stolen, my garage was burglarized in broad daylight, and it was only open for a short time. 

All in all I am missing four car stereos, a large duffel bag of my clothes, my baseball glove, my leather jacket, my bike, my spotlight, countless CDs, a camera, and I have replaced several broken windows.  I did not even bother to call the police.  I lost several thousand dollars worth of stuff, my stuff, I like my stuff. 

If the police were called, they will not dust for prints for a mere auto burglary.  To much work to do for a small time crime.  Sure, if they happen to pull someone over later for an unrelated traffic stop and find your stuff you may get it back, but are they actually going to actively pursue someone for a $300 stereo, NO WAY! 

Oh, and by the way, all this happened in CALIFORNIA!!!  This was not my crime experience in Costa Rica. 

I do have my own crime stories about Costa Rica.  I am not sure from where everyone is moving to Costa Rica, but I had crime back in my hometown in the States. 

Costa Rica is not Disneyland.  No country is.  There are things you can do to not be a victim here.  You can form community groups like Neighborhood Watch.  You can hire neighborhood security.  Get a dog or two.  You can be more aware of your surroundings. 

That is an important one.  I am 6'3" so I don’t worry so much about getting physically robbed.  You HAVE to know if you are being watched by criminals on the street. 

Carry mace, pepper spray, a personal alarm.  Know where you are.  Are you in a bad neighborhood?  The key is to not BE a victim.  This goes for driving too.  Be aware of other cars around you, of pedestrians at stop lights.  If you just stare at the light waiting for it to turn green it is easy for someone to walk up and ask you to exit your car!  Take yourself off the victim list. 

If you do these things, they soon become second nature and it’s not hard to do.  Do you remember the first time you drove in Costa Rica, Holy @#$&!  There are cars going every direction, it seems like there are no laws!  It’s crazy!  But you kept driving. You learned the environment, you adapted, now the craziness is normal and you are probably a better driver.  Adapt with your own security and it will become normal. 

The other half of the equation is attacking crime at the source.  As long as there is poverty, there will be crime.  Encourage your local schools, be active in your community, create jobs with your businesses.  I don’t think the young Ticos working at Intel and Merck are the same ones that are robbing everyone! 

Help address the social issues in your community and you can stop crime before it starts.  If all else fails maybe you can be BATMAN.  That’s a joke, of course, but I am also not against taking someone out of the gene pool if they are in my house.  That would take you off the victim list, too
Jess Haines
Watsonville California
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday,  Jan. 30, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 21

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Kate Rawson as Indian boy,   Natalia Campbell as Titania and Richard Clodfelter as Oberon.
midsummer trio

British group helps sets a record interpreting Shakespeare 
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When actor Richard Clodfelter went to bed Sunday night, he was unaware that when he next awoke he would be in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Still sweating from the exertion of playing three characters in TNT Theatre Britain's version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Clodfelter recounts the news he received Monday morning.

“My producer Grantly Marshall called me from Europe at 5 o'clock this morning to tell me that we are breaking a record today. TNT is the first theater company ever to put on six different plays in six different countries on the same day.”

Costa Rica was one of those countries, with the first night of  "A Midsummer Night's Dream" performed to an audience of some 120 in Café Britt's Teatro Dionisio, Heredia.

The Costa Rican shows, including two in Teatro Nacional, represent just one of the stops on an international tour that started off in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas. It wound its way through the big cities of China and Japan, to the castle courtyards of Scandinavia and Germany, before ending up at a coffee farm for its premiere in Latin America.

Simultaneously, five more plays are being performed in far-flung regions, by small bands of TNT's actors.

The company, started in 1980 by a Devon man, Paul Stebbings, hires actors for their abilities to adapt to harsh touring schedules and stressful environments. On top of this they must be good musicians, singers and dancers, as TNT's aim is to bring high-quality English language theater to as many countries as possible.  So far counting 30 countries, Costa Rica was added to the route in 2006, when Clodfelter brought "King Lear" here with the help of theater-loving Café Britt owner Steve Aronson.

“I was in Berlin once, and I saw this group of actors putting on 'King Lear' to an all-German audience,” said Aronson. “I was impressed because it was such a communicative version of what is really a very hard play. So I went backstage and said, hey, do you want to bring this to Costa Rica?”

Unable to say no to another exotic destination, the group soon brought their distinctive, highly visual version of Shakespeare to San José.

“Ours is a very physical theatre,” said Clodfelter. “We use music, dance and visual gags in an attempt to get the story across even to people who have limited English. But we try to never patronize the audience, or talk down to them.”

Shakespeare is a bold choice to engage with foreign-language audiences, and the company only began attempting it in 2000.

As Richard Ede, who acts the parts of Bottom and Demetrius, points out, Shakespeare can sometimes seem like a foreign language even for native English speakers.

In his 21 years travelling the globe with TNT, Clodfelter has come across a few plays that got firmly lost in a void between cultures.

“During a tour in Singapore, I was told to head off to Kuala Lumpur (capital of Malaysia) with the publicity materials to see if we could get some shows there,” said Clodfelter. “It just so happened that the play we were doing was Orwell's "Animal Farm," and the poster had a big picture of a pig on the front of it.

“As I was traveling up there, contemplating this pig, I realized the whole idea was quite insulting to an Islamic audience, because pigs are considered dirty and untouchable. I was pretty chagrined to realize that the Malaysians wouldn't be watching 'Animal Farm' anytime soon.”
nick bottom and donkey head
Richard Ede as Nick Bottom has the bad luck to have the head of a donkey.

Experiences so far in Costa Rica have been positive, and this year's production lends itself well to the company's particular style.

Shakespeare's tale sees four lovers run away from Athens into the surrounding woods, tangled in a love quadrangle that an arranged marriage is threatening to decide.

Lost in an enchanted land, they lay down to sleep, little knowing that the king of the fairies and his mischievous sprite, Puck, intend to put them under a spell that will make them fall in love with the first thing they see. Soon everyone is falling in love with the wrong person, but none is so far amiss as the queen of the fairies. She wakes to find herself in love with Bottom, a lowly amateur actor with the head of a donkey.

TNT's performance is a highly charged affair, with a warlike Hipolyta bursting onto the stage from the first breath. Actress Natalia Campbell interprets the character as a true Amazon warrior rather than the genteel versions often imagined by other companies.

Visual comedy is integral to the production. Gareth Radcliffe, playing Lysander, Puck and Snug the Joiner, carries the show with his energetic performances. He gets the most laughs for his turns as the camp, loved-up Lysander and the stuttering, terrified Snug the Joiner, who struggles to act the part of a wall in the famous play-within-a-play.   

But for all the silliness, there are some sinister undertones. Puck, also played by Radcliffe, has a reptilian, underworld edge, and is very much a creature of darkness. Although completely ridiculous, and often providing the best laughs of the script, director Stebbings argues that the laborer's play is a reminder of the serious counterparts to Shakespeare's theme of reunited lovers. All too easily, Hermia and Lysander could have fallen into the footsteps of Romeo and Juliet.

Clodfelter admits that it will be easier to hook an audience with a comedy than with the tragedies they have previously staged in the Teatro Nacional.

“There's nothing like the immediate feedback of a comedy,” he said. “Tonight, we knew right away that the audience were enjoying themselves, which lifted us and inspired us.”

Tamarindo will be the site of the next show, in an experimental outdoor performance unlike anything Guanacaste has seen before.

Guatemala will be the company's last stop, before returning home to start work on "Hamlet."

The company survives solely on ticket sales, their lack of corporate sponsorship resulting in a refrain with which they close their smaller shows: “If you liked the show, tell your friends. If you hated it, tell your enemies.”

The group will be performing in the Garden Plaza of Tamarindo Heights Thursday at 7.30 p.m., and then at the Teatro Nacional Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m. Call 653-0446 for tickets in Tamarindo or log on to for the San José dates.

Workmen have to use dynamite to open up a safe passage at landslide location
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The job took nearly two full days, and workmen had to blast twice with dynamite, but the vital Route 32 from San José north to Guápiles and to the Caribbean is open again.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes made the announcement about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The highway 27 kilometers north from San José was covered by a landslide late Sunday due to heavy local rains.
The  Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad sent explosives experts to work with employees of  Santa Fe, the construction company clearing the road, and transport ministry employees.

The dynamite was used to knock down unstable soil and rocks above the right-of-way.

Nevertheless, the transport ministry said that motorists should travel with caution through the mountainous areas particularly at night.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday,  Jan. 30, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 21

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U.S. will require both parents to sign for a child's passport
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

To protect children from abduction and to address concerns regarding runaway children,  both parents will be required to personally appear for a minor under 16 years to get a U.S. passport.

The U.S. State Department made this announcement Tuesday as it also said that passport fees were going up Friday.

The age limit for minors is being raised from 14 years, the State Department noted.

For parents overseas, both will have to appear at a U.S.
consulate where the passport is being issued and sign the application.

Both adult and juvenile passport fees are going up $3. The adult passport will be $100. The child's passport will be $85, the States Department said.

Adult passport renewals are going up $8 to $75.

As of Friday applicants will also have the option of pre-ordering a new passport card, a low cost and for limited land and sea use. This alternative to the standard passport is designed for persons living along the border.
The passport card will be $45 for adults and $35 for children.

Amnet says it will broadcast Super Bowl in a high definition format
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Amnet, the cable television provider, said Tuesday that it will broadcast the U.S. football championship, the Super Bowl, in high definition format.

The service will be available for any subscribers who have a plasma television, a liquid crystal display set or a decoding box for their own set.
From 5:25 p.m. Sunday the game will be on Channel 602, said Amnet. Fox Sports is transmitting the game, which is between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots.

High definition provides a clearer and sometimes much bigger picture, and the signal is digital. Most major U.S. television stations are switching to high definition within a year. Some satellite transmissions are digital.

Four bank bandits who held hostages in Venezuela are captured by police
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan authorities say they have captured the four gunmen who held more than 30 hostages in a bank for more than 24 hours and fled in an ambulance with some of the captives.

Officials say the getaway vehicle was intercepted Tuesday along a highway where the armed men surrendered to police. The hostages in the ambulance were freed safely. Police say the gunmen carried a grenade and firearms.

The ordeal began Monday when the gunmen tried to rob a branch of the Spanish-owned Banco Provincial in the town of Altagracia de Orituco. The gunmen seized bank
customers and employees when a police car pulled up during the robbery.

Tuesday the hostage-takers were allowed to leave with five hostages under a deal negotiated with police. As the ambulance sped away, a large crowd headed into the bank to help the captives who had been left behind.

Authorities say police allowed the suspects to flee because the gunmen had threatened to kill hostages.

In the last hours of the ordeal, some of the captives held up signs in bank windows with desperate pleas for help. It was not clear if the robbers took money from the bank with them into the ambulance.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 22

National cultural prizes recognise many areas - but not technology
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Hot on the heels of the Premio Cultural Magón winner have come the announcements of the numerous other national culture prize winners.

María Elena Carballo, minister of Cultura y Juventud, read out the long list of Premios Nacional de la Cultura 2007 Tuesday, in a conference at the Centro Nacional de la Cultura.

Along with the prizes for national theater, music, dance and literature, came two presented by the minister of Ciencia y Tecnología, Eugenia Flores.

Things started on a bad note, as Ms. Flores explained that the Clodomiro Picado prize for technology could not be awarded to anyone, as only two participants had entered, and neither fulfilled the criteria of the prize.

The science prize of the same name was dispatched to Felipe Mora Bermúdez, a biologist who won the award for his investigations into the condensation of chromosomes, and is currently working on a post-doctorate study in Germany.

In the theater awards, the recent Compañía Nacional de Teatro interpretation of Arthur Millers “All  My Sons” did well. Translated as “Todos eran mis hijos,” the production picked up awards in the best actress and best actor categories for the work of Eugenia Chaverri Fonseca and Gerardo Arce respectively.

Pilar Quirós was awarded best set designer for his work on Miller's play, but also for providing sets for two others, “Mal Dormir,” and “Fotografías de la lucha sin fin.”

“Bartleby,” also a national theatre company show in Teatro la Aduana, scooped two awards. Actress Andrea Catania won best supporting actress for her part in the Herman Melville play, while Alfredo Catania won best director. The judges called the play "a perfect theatrical experience," praising Catania for his artistic and creative adaptation of Melville's story.

Best supporting actor went to Johnny Obando, for his ability to convincingly portray multiple characters in Britt Espressivo's Christmas production of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," translated as “Un cuento de Navidad”.

Britt Expressivo itself was not forgotten, being awarded best theater group for its effort to maintain a theater production of constant high quality. The company has put on almost 16,000 performances of its daily play that tells tourists about the history of coffee.

A theatrical mention of honor went to “Toda tierra es tu Tierra,” for its theme of cultural diversity and tolerance, made

relevant to young people and adults alike.

The national music prize went to El Café Chorale, a group of around 37 singers that has won the prize twice before, in 1999 and 2003.

The Cultura Popular Tradicional prize went to Edgar Cerdas Rojas, a folklore investigator whose work into the authentic traditions of the country have been used in many educational contexts.

Dancers were able to win prizes for choreography and interpretation. The best choreographic work was decided to be “Sueños Cortados,” choreographed by Mario Blanco, Diego Alvarez, Jimmy Ortiz and José Alvarez, and the best interpreter was Elián López,

A whole section of prizes called the Aquileo J. Echeverría were also handed out. Writer Rodolfo Arias Formoso won the novel prize for his book “Te llevaré en los ojos,” which the judges said synthesized the experiences, ideals and values of a generation, with its humor and word plays keeping the audiences attention until the last minute.

Shorter literature was commended in the "cuento" category, with the prize awarded to Sonia Solarte for “Cuentos de muertos y otras soledades,” which has well structured characters and an original theme.

Artist Eugenio Murillo won the graphic art prize for his exhibition “Ideales de seducción” in the Galería Joaquín García Monge. He has been exhibiting work since the 1960s, and is now a professor at the Universidad de Costa Rica. Adrián Arguedas Ruano won the corresponding prize for painted art.

Historian Juan José Marin Hernández won the history category for his work “Prostitución, honor y cambio cultural en la provincia de San José de Costa Rica: 1860-1949,” which the judges said is a great theoretical/methodological contribution to Costa Rican history scholarship.

Sports reporter for La Nación Rodrigo Calvo Castro won the Pío Viquez award for journalism, for his work with the Special Olympic athletes, and for his informative coverage of the Campeonato Nacional de Futbol.

Adolfo Constela Umaña was recognised in the unclassified book category for “La lengua de Térraba,” about this indigenous language that is now almost extinct.

Other winners included Erick Gil Salas for poetry, musicians Marvin Camacho Villegas and Mario Alfagüel for their works Sinfonio #2, Humanidades, and Doble trio, opus 187, respectively. Sergio Masís won the theatre prize for “Mas Abajo del Aire.”

Art Galleries ....

48 etchings by 17th century master Rembrandt to be displayed here

San José will receive a visual treat from the Old World when 48 original etchings by Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn will go on public display.  The “Grabados de Rembrandt” exhibition opens Feb. 8 at the Museos del Banco Central.

Rembrandt is best known for his dramatic and lively yet compassionate handling of various subject matters, particularly Biblical scenes and portraiture.  The heightened emotion accompanying his work is aided by his famous use of chiaroscuro.  Rembrandt's diverse thematic range will be represented in the exhibition. 

The exhibition will occupy the gallery space on the first level in the Museo de Numismática because of its high security and better exhibition environment. 

The works are on loan to Costa Rica from the Rembrandt House Museum and the Embassy of Holland. 

The exhibition runs through April 6. 

The Museos del Banco Central is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Admission is $7 for tourists and 1,000 colons for citizens.  Wednesdays and the first Sunday of each month have free entry for nationals with identification.

Imagen V show has a few gems but a pack of clinkers, too

videoartshowNew media art is always a bit hit and miss with the potential to come across as a foundationless piece of pretension if it is not done well.

The Bienal Iberoamericana Inquieta Imagen V, a competition for video artists from across Latin America, is a good example of this, containing a few pieces that engage well with the subject and make the most of their medium, but many that leave the viewer cold.

Most of the works are video projections, some as short as a pistol shot and the flight of birds and some as long as a didactic letter that teaches about identity, isolation and fuschia flowers.

Read more - click here

Mistaken identity? No such thing, says new exhibition

historiaoficialCosta Rica is a land of volatile volcanoes, orchids, coffee fincas, Catholicism and Ticos.

Or you could say it's a country of wide seashores, football stadiums, fast food restaurants and beach towns overtaken by Gringos.

Some are clichéd symbols of a tourist nation, while others are part of the country's changing culture, but all are involved in Museo de Arte Costarricense's new exhibition that challenges viewers to reconsider their own perceptions of the nation.

Read more - click here

Oriental engravings brighten up Semana
in Calderón Guardia

Japanese artOriental engravings that have travelled half way across the world from Japan have ended their journey in Museo Calderón Guardia, where an exhibition of 75 works was inaugurated Thursday.

Subjects from autumn trees to high-rise apartments chart the growing influence of the West and development on post-war Japan.

  All the art works date from the 1950s until the 1990s, detailing an important time of change as the country opened up its borders and ideas after the tragedy of the Second World War.

“We chose 1950 as starting point because there is a marked dividing line in Japanese art at this point. The country's art is very different to its precursors after this date," said a museum release.

However, the influence of the 30s and 40s can be felt in this  exhibition, as the bequest that it bestowed upon contemporary Japanese art is important to the understanding of this exhibition.

 To this end, the curators have involved artists who were also active in the 30s and 40s, the decades leading up to the divide in Japanese art, but who continued to produce and evolve after World War II.

Read more - click here

Festivals ...

Jacó to host international festival in promotion of anti-drugs culture

'Tis the season for grand international music ventures in small beachfront towns, it would seem, as Jacó gets in on the festival action with an event entitled Puntarenas Rock.

Three stages and 30 artists will come to San Jose's closest strip of sand on Feb. 2, brought by Gota Producciones. The music production company claims to use the festival to promote a world without drugs, developing and enforcing an attitude against drug use in young people.

Read more, click here

Identidad Art Festival

Fifty artists will have the enviable job of displaying their work on a warm beach in Guanacaste this February, as part of the Identidad Art Festival.

Hosted by Playa Conchal Reserve, the festival aims to revive the cultural values of the area, promoting local art as a tourist attraction.

Painters, sculptors and musicians are all welcome to participate and show off Costa Rican talent to the high season tourists during Feb. 2-4. Interested parties should visit

First International Blues Festival

Texas blues bands are heading down to Santa Ana for an afternoon of live music. BBQ's and cold beers will accompany artists including Smokin Joe Kubek & Bnois King and Robbie Clarke & the Live Wire Blues Band.

Two stages at Motorpsychos Bar and Grill will host a total of seven bands during the afternoon of Feb. 9. Tickets cost $25 and can be found by contacting

Puntarenas Carnaval a mix of the traditional and the modern

If you didn't know otherwise, you could be forgiven for thinking that Puntarenas Carnival is largely about scantily clad ladies fighting it out to be crowned queen of the show.

However, the organisers claim that the carnaval tradition that will fill Puntarenas with people dressed in luminous feathers, steel bands, and brightly-coloured dancers, has roots that go back for thousands of years, to pagan celebrations of Baco, the God of wine.

Over time the carnaval has become related to Christian tradition, the date changing with that of the Easter week, and always falling around the time that Lent begins.

Read more, click here

Mini-mall comes to the rescue of the not-rich-but-hungry

food court

For those in the know, there is a clean, affordable, relatively quiet gastronomic surprise off the pedestrian mall in downtown San Jose.  Between Arenas clothing store and the Patio Restaurant, behind a perfume counter and a Pops Ice Cream sits a food court without a McDonald's, Wendy's, Subway or Church's Chicken in sight. 

Tropical Food is a counter selling relatively healthy food.  While their batidos aren't as delicious as the ones found at FrutiLand in Mall San Pedro, the water-or-milk-
blended-with-fruit drink is a refreshing treat to carry during your walk along Avenida Central.  A batido with the fruit of your choice mixed with water costs 650 colons, with milk, 750 colons.  That's from $1.30 to $1.50.

Adding honey or granola takes you up to a still-reasonable 900 colons ($1.80).  The store also peddles fruit salads, ranging from 700 to 1.600 colons ($1.40 to $3.20).

Marisqueria produces delicious looking and smelling seafood dishes.  A customer-friendly hanging chalkboard lists their menu and respective prices.  A small corvina ceviche will set you back 1,950 colons ($3.90).  Get a small rice with shrimp for 2.150 colons ($4.30), 2,800 ($5.60) for a larger serving.  Or try one of the fish filets prepared several different ways, the cheapest being with oil and garlic for 2,600 ($5.20) colons, the priciest fish filet dish is 3,600 colons ($7.20) for relleno with ham and cheese.

Click here to read more

Festive season proves troublesome even for established restaurant

vealBeing a chef in a busy kitchen must be a pretty stressful job, but around Christmas stress is something any successful restaurant should factor in as inevitable.

On a second visit to well-reputed French restaurant Le Chandelier, it soon became obvious that the staff were poorly equipped for the onslaught of Christmas party diners on a Tuesday night, leaving the usually decent food to deteriorate into a procession of almost inedible starters and bland entrees.

Set in an old San Pedro house with brick ceilings and wooden beams that was converted into a restaurant around 15 years ago by Swiss owner Claude Dubuis, Le Chandelier purports to offer French cuisine that has been developed over generations of experience.

Click here to read the full review

A great meal is not all in the presentation

musslesandfondue120407With a vaulted glass ceiling, palm trees lining the pathway and posh lighting, one would not expect Saga restaurant to be settled behind a dull parking lot in Escazú.

Although this restaurant may look out of place, it doesn't deviate much from the norm in Escazú, an area many would classify as suburban sprawl.

The majority of the cuisine at Saga seems to fit with the setting: classy presentation, yet lacking any profound flavors. Although the restaurant boasts itself as an “international food restaurant” on its Web site, much of the inspired cuisine is lacking the depth which would be found in authentic dishes.

Click here to read the full review

Dramatic Arts...

Cultural prizes handed out to 2007's cream of the crop

Premio Magón

maria eugenia dengoA woman who devoted her life to the improvement of Costa Rica's education system was yesterday announced as the winner of 2007's Premio Nacional de Cultura Magón.

María Eugenia Dengo started out by introducing new subjects and professions to the Universidad de Costa Rica in the early 70s, and moved on to such respected positions as minister of Educación Pública and UNESCO regional coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Read more click here

National Culture Prizes

Hot on the heels of the Premio Cultural Magón winner have come the announcements of the numerous other national culture prize winners.

María Elena Carballo, minister of Cultura y Juventud, read out the long list of Premios Nacional de la Cultura 2007 Tuesday, in a conference at the Centro Nacional de la Cultura.

Along with the prizes for national theater, music, dance and literature, came two presented by the minister of Ciencia y Tecnología, Eugenia Flores.

Things started on a bad note, as Ms. Flores explained that the Clodomiro Picado prize for technology could not be awarded to anyone, as only two participants had entered, and neither fulfilled the criteria of the prize.

Read more click here

Sunny days in San José complemented by free concerts

MAFconcert The hot dry days are being put to good cultural use by the Museos del Banco Central with a series of outdoor concerts in the middle of the downtown area.

Hundreds of shoppers stopped to lean over the balcony in Plaza de la Cultura Saturday, when the Costa Rican singer MAF and her band played a sunny set of pop tunes outside the doors of the museum.

Although the series is named 'Conciertos en las gradas', fewer people sat to on the steps outside the Museo de Oro than stood around the edges, looking down at the stage.

Onlookers were enthusiastic about the music, in spite of the singer's annoying lack of the ability to dance. She has recently released her debut album, Viaje Cosmico, for which she was recognised as 2007's revelationary interpretive artist by Costa Rica's music association, Asociacion de Compositores y Autores Musicales de Costa Rica. 

An alternative offering of rock trip-hop is up next on Feb. 9 at 2 p.m., played by group Parque en el espacio. The band recorded a live CD in San Pedro's Jazz Café during 2006, called Hello Hello.

Miriam Jaraquín and Blues Latino will bring piano and accordion, flute and saxophone to the stage at midday on March 2., with an acoustic jazzy sound.

The final concert of the series will be on March 29., with trio Villegas playing some classic Spanish rock from 2 p.m.
Books ...

Land use in Costa Rica documented by Fulbright scholar

Forty years of living in the jungle, moving between secluded forestry stations and research labs, has led Louisiana resident and NASA veteran
Armond Joyce
Armond Joyce
Armond Joyce to write a book about the changing uses of land in Costa Rica.

After winning a presitgious Fulbright scholarship in 1998, he came back to Costa Rica to revisit forest sites that he worked on over three decades earlier as a graduate student. 

Some of the earliest satellite technology available was used in 1966 to take arial photographs of Costa Rica's countryside, and the
book compares these black and white shots with up-to-date images.

Click here to read more

New book dwells on the social aspects of food

Food is not just a selfish pleasure or a way to stifle hunger, but is central to the evolution of art, according to a new book published by Museos del Banco Central.

Artworks by Costa Rican painters are the main content of the hardback book, “Imagenes para Comer,” which follows the representation of food in art since still life painting became popular in the Renaissance.

Full-color pictures of both traditional and modern works are far more common than recipes, as the author Marjorie Ross only provides seven recipes within the book.

All are traditional Costa Rican dishes showing influences from different sections of the community, such as corn fritters, white beans and chorizo and fruit salad.

The book focuses on the meanings that food has within society, and how these are portrayed by art.

Click here to read more

Adjusting to tight games means playing more aggressively

When you play no limit hold’em, the ideal strategy is to take minimal risk, do little bluffing, and hope that weaker players call you when you have a strong hand. 

But that’s the perfect world.  Sometimes you’ll face opponents that play very conservatively and will rarely pay you off when you have the goods.
Tables like these aren’t as profitable as loose games but there are adjustments you can make to clean up here, too.  In fact, if you approach tight games properly, they’ll provide a stable opportunity to steadily build your bankroll. 
Say you’re in a game where the other guys just seem to be waiting around for the nuts. They won’t play unless they’re dealt premium hands.

You can exploit this situation by playing more aggressively.  Raise more pots before the flop.  Look to steal blinds and antes, and try to pick up pots when the other players don’t show strength.  Use caution, though, especially when someone decides to call or reraise.
That’s the basic adjustment to make in tighter games, but it doesn’t stop there.  It also makes sense to bluff more at bigger pots, particularly if your opponents tend to play scared.

Beating a tight game requires focus.  You’ll need to seek out every opportunity where you can steal a big pot.  One way is by representing a hand that your opponents probably can’t beat. 

Let’s look at a situation where you should be able to successfully bluff out a conservative opponent.
With blinds at $5-$10, a tight player raises to $30 from first position.  You call the raise with 10c-Jc.  The flop comes 5c-6d-8c, giving you four cards to the flush. 

Your opponent bets out $50 and you call.  The turn card is the 7d, adding a straight draw possibility on the board.  He checks and the action is on you.

Because your opponent is a rock, there’s a good chance that he has a hand like A-K, A-A, K-K, or Q-Q. And if that is the case, well, he obviously didn’t make his straight.  Also consider that he won’t play a big pot unless he has the nuts or close to it. 

 A solid bet here and this pot is yours without even worrying about if you’ll catch the straight or flush on the river.  With $175 in the pot, a bet of $100 should be enough to steal this pot away. 
There are other ways to exploit tight players.  For example, they’re usually easy to read since the range of hands they’ll play is limited.  And they’ll tend to bet their hands in a straightforward manner – another clue as to their holding. 

Make sure to use the board cards to tell your story when bluffing tight players.  Be on the lookout for cards that you know your opponents don’t like.  When they do come, bet to represent a hand they can’t beat.

Keep in mind that this advice runs counter to the small ball style characterized by playing lots of marginal hands and needing a strong hand to play big pots.  Small ball just doesn’t work in tighter games because the big payoff isn’t likely to be there. 
As you get more accustomed to playing in tighter games, it will become easier to get a feel for the pots you can steal.  You’ll also recognize the ones that are best left unchallenged.  Even if your hand is very strong, if a tight player raises you back, chances are he’s got you beat.

Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, Hold’em Wisdom for All Players.

Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, "Hold’em Wisdom for All Players."
© 2008 Card Shark Media.  All rights reserved.

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