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(506) 223-1327       Published Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 25            E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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$225 million promised for 1.5 million third-generation cell lines
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The telephone company said Monday it had gotten approval of a loan to help it launch third-generation cell phone service by 2009.

These are the cell phones that easily receive video, expanded Internet browsing, videoconferencing and a number of other features that are not available with the GSM-type phones that are on the market now.

The phone company, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, said it has received approval for a $225 million loan from the  Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica. The
money will help the phone monopoly put in service some 1.5 million lines, said the company.
The deal has to be approved by the  Contraloría General de la República.

The project is a response to consumers' desire for more bandwidth, and the third-generation system, known as 3-G, will allow phone customers to use several services at the same time.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad anticipates wireless competition under the terms of the free trade treaty with the United States. The current GSM system cannot provide service in certain parts of the country. And the system frequently is inundated by calls at peak periods.

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A.M. Costa Rica/Elise Sonray
They are no friends of rebels

Costa Rica joined a worldwide protest Monday against the largest rebel group in Colombia. Many of the 600 who showed up in San José condemning the rebels were refugees from the country.

Lucila Rosco, 63, of Cali, Colombia, left, said her family had suffered from kidnapings and killings orchestrated by the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, the rebel group.

More on the rally HERE!

Fancy hotel with sewage woes now a political issue
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Irritation is mounting in Guanacaste that the Hotel Occidental Allegro Papagayo remains open and functioning normally. Representatives of Partido Acción Ciudadana and the Confraternidad Guanacasteca came together Monday to submit a plea that firm action be taken against the hotel.

Citizens of El Gallo in Guanacaste documented up to 100 trucks a day arriving at a sewage plant in their town, carrying waste water from the four-star hotel situated half an hour's drive away. The town is about 10 kms. or about six miles north of the city of Liberia.

The sewage plants were only authorized to treat one truckload of sewage per day, and residents say that the smell created by the procession was unbearable.

After the community brought the problem to the awareness of the Municipalidad de Liberia, the environmental unit of the municipality investigated and came to the conclusion in December that the hotel did not have the capacity to treat its own waste waters.
Instead, the hotel contracted a company to remove the waste and did not ask where the sewage went after it had left the hotel grounds, according to residents.

When called on Monday afternoon, a representative said that the hotel was open and functioning normally, despite an announcement from María Luisa Ávila Agüero, minister of health, just before midday confirming the decision to close the hotel.

Gadi Amit, a member of the Confraternidad Guanacasteca, said that the health ministry had given the hotel an initial warning that it would be shut down within 24 hours last Tuesday. He said that the fact that the hotel remains open signals that the owners are being put above the law.

“We've had other cases like this,” said Amit. “They've said they're going to shut the hotel, but without seeing it, we won't believe it.”

Representatives of the Partido Acción Ciudadana held an afternoon press conference to say said that the model of tourism of the Óscar Arias adminisntration showed more interest in attracting investment than in the sustainable development of the coastal areas.

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Twins are back home now
after successful surgery

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The two young twins separated by surgeons in California came home to Costa Rica Monday. The twins Yurelia and Fiorella Rocha Arias of San José are walking, something they were not able to do when they were joined at the chest and stomach. Both are 2.

Surgeons at the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. in Palo Alto, California, separated them in mid-November.

The girls have been out of the hospital for some weeks in California. Much of the medical bill was donated or paid for by foundations.

Courts identify figures
in property fraud case

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 10 persons who are suspects in a property fraud case  have been identified by the Poder Judicial.

The individual are being investigated for the crimes of falsification of documents involved a finca in San Rafael de Heredia. The property is owned by a man who  the Poder Judicial identified by the last names of  López Sequeira.

The Poder Judicial said that four women were involved and gave their last names as Soto Sevilla, Argüello Keyth, Sandí Bermúdez and Parú.

Two of the six men have the same last names,  Román Mejía. The remaining four were identified by the last names of  Arce Vargas, Navarro Sojo, Costel Preda and Mata Araya.
Two of the individuals involved in the case are believed to be notaries.

The Judicial Investigating Organization staged a series of raids Thursday where the suspects were detained. The individuals were not jailed. A judge let them go free on the condition that they sign in with the prosecutors every 15 days, said the Poder Judicial.

Sala IV orders protection
of mangroves on the Osa

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has ordered officials in the Municipalidad de Golfito to look into claims of encroachment in the Puerto Jiménez area.

The court also ordered the municipality and the Ministerio de  Ambiente y Energía to insure that mangroves in the vicinity of  Parrot Bay Village are protected and allowed to recuperate.

An appeal from a citizen said that Brisa de la Bahía S. A. has built a road in the mangroves to reach a home that had been constructed in the public area of the maritime zone. The citizen claimed that the local officials were not active in protecting the public areas. The magistrates threw out most of the complaint but did order local officials to look into the case. The ruling was released Friday.

Altercation at bar ends
in stabbing death of man

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police arrested a 62-year old man after a stabbing at a bar resulted in a death Sunday night in San Ramón, said officials.
A man who was angry with the victim stabbed him in the abdomen with a kitchen knife, said Captain Wilber Vásquez, chief of police in Santiago de Palmares de San Ramón.

“They were having fun and drinking at the bar and this man got angry for some reason,” said Vásquez. “They were not friends, just at the bar on the same night,” added Vásquez.
Everything took place inside of the small bar El Puente located in Santiago de Palmares de San Ramón. Rescue workers took the victim, Greivin Carranza Rodríguez, 42,  to Hospital Dr. Carlos Luis Valverde Vega where he died, said officials.

Police detained a suspect by the name of Evencio Lobo Montero, 62, according to officials. The Judicial Investigation Organization in  San Ramón is investigating.

Christian group brings books to prisons

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Christian Library International has formed an affiliate in Costa Rica. The Raleigh, North Carolina-based organization collects and distributes Christian books, Bibles and materials to  over 900 U.S. prisons and missions in 45 countries. San José  resident, Carlos Figueroa was named the local head.

Christian books have been donated by churches, libraries, individuals and Christian publishers. Figueroa has extensive experience with Costa Rican prisons, said the organization. He will be assisted by a team of five, including Carlos Cunningham of San José,  who has been in prison ministry in Costa Rica for more than 20 years, the group said.

The group is accepting donations of Christian books at Calle Blancos church in Calle Blancos across from the Palí supermarket.

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Colombians gather in front of the La soidad church in San José to declare who they are and that they will not put up with the kidnappings and lies of the rebels in their country.

Colombian protest
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas

About 600 here turn out to condemn Colombian rebels
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For the first time in history, persons in 130 cities around the world gathered Monday to protest actions of the largest rebel group in Colombia.

The group, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, brings fear not only to the people in Colombia but in the entire world. That's what protesters Monday in 46 nations were saying. But the fear has to stop, said María Fernánda Gualdrón Blanco, coordinator of the San José demonstration.

“No more kidnappings! No more lies! No more deaths! No more FARC!” yelled Ms. Gualdron, as the crowd chanted in repetition. Across the world hundreds of thousands chanted this same phrase and wore t-shirts with the slogan splashed across in the colors of the Colombian flag.

Lucila Rosco, 63, sat on a stone ledge in Parque de las Garantías Sociales, collecting free balloons at the San José protest. She wasn't satisfied until she was holding three blue balloons, one red, and one yellow, along with her small white flag. “People in my family have died and been kidnapped,” said Ms. Rosco, originally from Cali, Colombia. “That's why I came today.”  About 600 others also came, accoridng to informal estimates.

The U.S. Department of State describes the Colombian rebel group as Latin America's oldest, largest, and best
equipped terrorist organization, with perhaps 12,000 fighters and thousands of supporters. “In addition to its attacks on Colombian military, political and economic targets, the rebels' various fronts are deeply involved in narcotics trafficking, kidnapping for ransom, extortion, murder and other criminal activities,” according to the State Department's Web site. They are offering a $5 million reward for the leader of the group Pedro Antonio Marín or “Tirofijo.”

Liliana Valencia Luque came to the event in San José with her two children. “We are here to express our unity against FARC,” she said. “There are so many examples of people who have been effected by them.” Ms. Valencia, a Colombian, said she wants her children, both Costa Ricans, to experience a peaceful united front against war.

Some worried Monday's protests might draw attention away from important aspects of the Colombian conflict. The Colombian Support Network, a human rights organization based in the United States, said it applauded the event but reminded people not to forget the human rights abuses and “frequent collaboration of Colombia’s military with these paramilitary operations and indeed human rights violations on their own.”

President Óscar Arias Sanchez did not attend the event but said in a press release that he supported those protesting worldwide. “Today's movement should be a cry to the conscience of humanity to do something for Colombia,” said Arias.  

These free trade opponents arenot giving up and claim referendum was rigged
free trade protest
A.M. Costa Rica/Helen Thompson
Free trade oppenents carry a sign alleging fraud outside the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones.
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A group of protesters accused Costa Rican election magistrates of fraud Monday. They handed an open letter to authorities of the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones. The letter claimed that the electoral rolls for October's referendum on the free trade agreement with the United States were rigged.

Only 20 opponents of the treaty turned out to protest in front of the tribunal building in downtown San José Monday afternoon.

Leaflets were handed out claiming that the government's 'Si' campaign was fraudulent due to the erasure of names from electoral rolls. Other accusations included that the government paid people between $40 to $100 to vote in favor of the agreement, and that the campaign was unfair due to unequal funding available to each side.

Maria Ramírez Vargas, who works for Costa Rica en Acción, claimed that she has proof of the erasure of votes from electoral registers with as many as seven people from one family unable to vote in the referendum because their names had been removed.  Ms. Ramirez Vargas has gone as far as to make a DVD about the fight against TLC before the referendum and is currently making a second part dealing with her investigation.

Protesters, who belong to both Costa Rica en Acción and Asamblea del Pueblo, admitted that it is likely that the judges will ignore the letter but say that they will sue in the International Court of Human Rights.

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Country ready to spend $45.1 million to repair flood damage
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national emergency commission reported Monday that some 22.2 billion colons or about $45.1 million will be spent to reconstruct infrastructure damaged in 45 cantons in October.

The bulk of the damage was on the Pacific coasts and in the Central Valley.

About $20 million of the money came from the People's Republic of China as a donation.

A priority of the reconstruction plan is to provide about 1,000 homes to some 2,768 persons evicted by the extensive flooding, said the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias.
The work includes 641 family homes to be constructed in Corredores, Golfito, Cañas, Aserrí, Desamparados, Cartago and Atenas. The rest of the homes will go up in Guanacaste, San José, Aguirre, Matina and Talamanca.

Much of the nation suffered from two uninterrupted weeks of heavy rains in October. They were the product of tropical waves and cold fronts that spawned storm after storm.

The rest of the work will include roads, bridges and even work at some airports where the runways suffered damage.

There are 350 kms. (217 miles) of road to be repaired.

Some 136 bridges suffered some form of damage, the commission said.

Bicycle meets a motorcycle and one operator dies, and the other is injured
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The accident was a strange one. A 58-year-old man riding a bicycle collided headon with a motorcycle.

That happened Sunday about 8 p.m. in Tecal de Palmar Sur.

The dead man had the last name of Centeno, accoridng to
the Judicial Investigating Organization. Centeno died at Hospital Escalante Pradilla in Pérez Zeledón. The driver of the motrocycle, believed to be part of a group of enthusiasts, has the last name of Araya.

He was hospitalized.

The cause of the accident remains unclear, although that section of road is belived to ber badly lighted.

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Should you play limit or no-limit Texas hold’em?

Until the start of the current poker boom that dates back to 2003, you couldn’t find a no-limit Texas hold’em cash game if you tried.  Limit hold’em ruled.  But that all changed once No Limit tournaments started to air on television.

Back before the boom started, poker professionals played Limit games to pay the bills.  And hold’em wasn’t the only game they played.  Stud, Omaha, stud hi-lo, and Omaha hi-lo were also played – all of them limit games.

Like these pro players, you can become a better overall player by investing the time and effort to learn both disciplines of the game. 

Playing limit hold’em will certainly improve your no limit game.  There are subtleties to the limit game that will enhance your technique at the no limit tables. 

Mastering these uniquely aggressive limit tactics will enable you to steal more pots when you sit down to play no limit hold’em.

So, if you’re trying to make a living playing hold’em, which is the better game to play, limit or no-limit?  Here are some factors to consider.

Go Fishing

Inexperienced players generally flock toward the no limit tables because it’s clearly the most popular form of the game.  Having said that, where the fish go, so go the sharks!  As a result, you’ll often find that limit games are even softer because the pros are concentrating on the no limit games, baiting their hooks and reeling in their catch.

Playing the Percentages

Your winning percentage by session will likely be higher in no limit games than in limit games.  Winning 65 percent of your sessions in limit hold’em is excellent.  In no-limit, however, it’s not uncommon to log winning sessions 80 percent of the time.

That’s due to the natural differences between the two games.  Less control can be exerted in limit games because it’s more difficult to force players out of pots with structured betting. 

In no-limit, though, hands can be protected from being outdrawn by making large bets that force opponents to fold weak draws. 

Bankroll Protection

Despite the fact that you’ll likely win a higher percentage of sessions in no-limit hold’em, choosing to play limit hold’em is a safer decision to protect your bankroll.  You won’t win as often, but you also won’t risk losing everything you have on any single hand.

Your results in limit hold’em will be more consistent over time, and that’s especially important if you plan to grind it out at the tables for 40 hours every week.  No-limit hold’em is simply a much more volatile game.

Level of Aggression

Contrary to popular belief, limit hold’em is the more aggressive form of the game.  It’s characterized by constant raising and re-raising before the flop.  On the other hand, no-limit hold’em is played more carefully since any hand could cost you your entire stack.

If, for example, you flop top pair in limit hold’em, it’s usually correct to raise and re-raise on the flop.  No limit hold’em should be played more cautiously.  You need to be concerned about over pairs and flopped sets.

Pace of Play

Limit hold’em is the game for you if you bore easily and crave fast action.  Conversely, in no-limit, the game will often slow to a halt when someone is faced with a big decision.  That’s uncommon in limit games because all-in bets are rare.

Whatever game suits you best, learn to play both limit and no-limit Texas hold’em.  Your overall game will definitely improve.
Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, "Hold’em Wisdom for All Players."
© 2008 Card Shark Media.  All rights reserved.

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.

Exhibit condemning illegal fishing would be better elsewhere

For a while now, a large marquee has been standing outside the Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporaneo in San José.

In it hangs what has variously been described as an enormous bee hive, a throwback to sixties glow lamps or a swarm of schooling fish.

The last explanation is the one that the artists propound. Huge, blue, glowing and transparent, the structure extends almost four meters down from the ceiling, nearly equaling its height with its width. It tapers towards the end, putting one in mind of a chrysalis, and its outside is made totally of clear nylon wires.

Read more - click here

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

Festivals ...

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.

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...

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.

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.

Read more click here

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

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