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(506) 223-1327         Published Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 32            E-mail us
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Proposed law ending phone monopoly gets first OK
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Legislators approved for the initial vote Wednesday the controversial Ley General de Telecomunicaciones that would open up telephone service to private companies and break the long-held monopoly of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

The Asamblea Legislativa vote was 36 to 19 with the Partido Acción Ciudadana and two independent lawmakers voting no. Legislative officials said a second and final vote will be held next week.

This is the fifth of some 14 measures to be passed. The bills are the implementation agenda for the free trade treaty with the United States.

Casa Presidencial greeted the morning action with joy. Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, brother of the president and minister of the Presidencia, called the measure part of the spinal column of the free trade agenda. He also cited the law that would eliminate
 the insurance monopoly of the Instituto  Nacional de Seguros and a law designed to strengthen the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

Proponents quickly praised the measure as a way to improve the quality of life in Costa Rica. Opponents said the measure would eliminate the universal telephone service that the  Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad now provides.

Opposing lawmakers said they would ask the Sala IV constitutional court to rule on the legality of the bill, mainly because it demolishes the monopoly of the national telecommunications company.

Union members of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad were among the strongest opponents of the free trade treaty, and their yellow shirts and banners dominated anti-treaty protests.

Among other actions, the bill, if it finally becomes law, would create a supervisory agency for telecommunications.


Marina meeting in Puerto Viejo upsets residents
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Emotions ran high in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca Tuesday, at a meeting between community members and the local municipality that ended with the mayor leaving the building under police protection, according to residents who were there.

Around 300 people came to hear the debate about the controversial “Marina Ecologica New World” planned for Playa Negra, a beach that extends north from the center of Puerto Viejo.

Casa Cultura in Puerto Viejo was packed with a crowd that spilled onto the streets as Walter Coto, lawyer for the developers Grupo Caribeño Internacional S.A., opened the meeting at 10 a.m.

Community members of the small Caribbean town sent two letters to Rugelis Morales Rodríguez, mayor of Talamanca, requesting a meeting with municipality members. They hoped that the municipality would be able to answer questions, mainly surrounding concerns that the marina project would have adverse effects on the marine life and coral in two national parks near to the chosen development site. 

“Mayor Rodríguez and Paola Mora also gave speeches after Coto,” said Jose Guido Bizet, the opposition's general coordinator. “They were very vague and did not tell us what we wanted to hear.”

Coto explained that the company he represents is still in the stage of compiling the pre-project report, and therefore no technical details for the “Marina Ecologica New World” are confirmed.

After the official speeches, the audience was informed that only three people from the community would be allowed to speak.

Chosen to speak were Guido, Mauricio Salazar, a representative of the Alta Talamanca region who works in ecotourism, and Guillermo Quirós, an oceanographer.

“The municipal lawyer replied to our questions, asking how the area could develop without investments like the marina,” said Guido. “She cited the drug problem here, and also said that the community had no right to express concern about
the coral reefs off the shore while the hotels and restaurants are contaminating the waters with their waste and sewage.

“I replied that the prospective 400 extra boats that could dock here would most likely increase the problem of drug trafficking rather than decrease it, and that it is the job of the municipality to organize programs for recycling and cleaning up the town.”

Those who attended reported that the lawyer, Ms. Mora, then said that the organizers of the meeting were lying to the community by augmenting the number of boats proposed for the marina. She said that the number of yachts the project proposes is closer to 100 than 400.

The third speaker, Quirós, referred to pre-project plans secured from the Comision de Marinas y Atracaderos Turisticos, which show that the pre-project plans do indeed state that the marina would hold 398 boats.

“Quirós said that it was actually the municipality that was lying to the people. Then George Brown, the municipal president, started shouting that they would have to close the meeting early,” said  Guido.

The meeting was brought to an end amid disapproving chants.

“The mayor was escorted out of the Casa by police,” said Alaine Berg, who works for Asociación Talamanqueña de Ecoturismo y Conservación and attended Tuesday's meeting. “I don't know why. I didn't see anyone making threats to him. It was very emotional. There were people crying in the streets.”

Guido added that Brown made a demand that in future no foreigners would be allowed into similar meetings. Guido said that the community would fight against this decision, as there are many foreigners who legally own businesses in the area who should be able to have a say in developments.

Community leaders were set to have a meeting Wednesday night entitled "And What Now?" to decide the opposition movement's next step.

Mayor Rodríguez was unavailable for comment Wednesday.


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Free dance at Parque Morazán
a highlight for Valentine's Day


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Being alone on Valentine's Day can be depressing. Usually, there are many events scheduled to help the lonely and
sad heart
brokenhearted.  So for readers without love, there's still plenty to do.

Parque Morazán, in downtown San Jose, is the setting for a Gran Baile de los Enamorados.  This grand dance, however, is billed as an event commemorating love and friendship.  The Orquesta de Lubín Barahona and los Caballeros del Ritmo will provide two hours of
dancing music.  The dance begins at 7 p.m. and in the friendly spirit, entry is free.  The sponsor is the Municipalidad de San José.

Another Valentine's Day event is the eighth annual Have a Heart Charity Golf Tournament at Hacienda Pinilla Golf Course.  It is a scholarship fundraiser, with support going towards Guanacaste schools such as Colegio Villarreal, Colegio Tecnico, La Garita Viejo Grade School, CEPIA and La Paz Community School.  The event is staffed by volunteers and all proceeds are given directly to the schools.

Another festival begins today in Puntarenas,. It's called Carnavales de Verano 2008.  A parade begins at 5 p.m. today. The carnival is billed as a family event, with concerts and belly dancing lessons.  Sports lovers, take note of Saturday when a sportsfishing competition, speedboat rally, beach volleyball and girls soccer all occur.  The Musical group Los Rabanes will perform Friday and Cantares performs Tuesday, with karaoke to follow. 

Amateur boxers take the ring on Feb. 22 and the festival's closing events are Feb. 23 and 24.  There will, of course, be copious amounts of alcohol throughout the entirety of the event.


Tamarindo plans a fair
to help win back blue flag


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tamarindo will this weekend try to raise awareness for its struggle to regain blue flag certification through a feria turistica to extend throughout Saturday and Sunday.

Organized by Banco Nacional, the feria will involve local businesses including hotels, real estate businesses and the Tamarindo branch of the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantrillados.

Marimba bands, typical dancing and volleyball will provide entertainment on Saturday, while on Sunday there will be cycling and surfing.

Tents will house representatives of local businesses who will give information about their work and activities.

The event is aimed to bring the community together in order to increase communication and spread knowledge about why the blue flag is important for the Tamarindo community.

“We need the blue flag because it guarantees quality service and clean beaches for tourists,” said Federico Amador, the director of Associación Pro Mejoras de Tamarindo. “We know we are far away from regaining the blue flag certification, and will not try to apply for it until 2009, but we need to work hard now to lay the basis for gaining the flag back.”

The community lost the blue flag designation amid a scandal about raw sewage running into the ocean. Local and national officials are trying to resolve the problems.

The event will start at 10 a.m. in the public parking lot next to Witch's Rock Surf Camp. Music and dancing ensues at midday, and volleyball will be played at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Cycling starts on Sunday at 9 a.m. with surfing at 11 a.m. The feria finishes at 4 p.m. Sunday.


Killers gun down pair
on an area's major highway


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Killers assassinated a man and a women on one of the Central Valley's main highways early Wednesday.

According to a police summary it appears that a gunman or gunmen surprised the pair on the Autopista Bernardo Soto and riddled them and their Toyota Prado with multiple bullets. The vehicle may have been stopped when the killings took place.

Rescue workers found the women, who they had not identified by Wednesday night, dead inside the vehicle. The man's body was outside near the roadway. He was identified as Henry Moraga Farjado. The investigation was delayed because neither person carried identification papers, agents said.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the man had been convicted of a drug crime in 2004. There was no report of any substances being found in the vehicle.

The pair were believed to be on a trip from the city of Puntarenas to San José. The shooting happened in the El Coyol section of Alajuela, not far west from Juan Santamaría airport. The highway usually has traffic 24 hours a day. The shooting happened about 1:30 a.m., agents said.

The woman was described as being between 18 and 20. She had a distinctive blue star tattoo on the lower part of her stomach, investigators said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 32

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A guest editorial
A checklist for those who would buy property here

By Randy Berg*
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Everywhere you turn, you bump into someone who has either been to Costa Rica or at the least, knows someone who has bought property there.
 
All of the developments and real estate salesmen throughout Costa Rica will tell you that “CNBC says that Costa Rica is the hottest real estate market in the world today.”
 
Is land in Costa Rica a good thing, and particularly,  “is property in the literally 100s of developments throughout Costa Rica as good as everyone says?”
 
This is a short primer in what to watch out for when shopping for land or property in one of the many developments being sold throughout the country.   There are a huge number of developments, some good, some great, and, unfortunately, a great many that are not so great. In fact, the representations made by some of them border on out and out falsehoods.
 
So how do you tell the good from the bad?
 
A potential buyer, should INSIST on answers to these questions:
 
1.  If you are buying a predevelopment or preconstruction property, what guarantee do you have that the infrastructure will be completed?   Do you really want just a pile of dirt with a view?

2.  Are you certain that all of the amenities you WANT and NEED are available?  Don’t assume anything in Costa Rica.   This ain’t Kansas, you know.    The Internet and the satellite TVs and even good medical care or a good mechanic are not things that exist here with any assurance.   Make a checklist for yourself.

3.  Are you positive that your lot can, in fact, come with water, electric and telephone?   There are more than a handful of communities in Costa Rica where water shortages are preventing building permits from being issued.   Talk to the municipality and a good attorney and insist upon proof of these simple questions.   Utilities and roads in Costa Rica are not items to be taken for granted. 

And a salesman’s assurance of a new highway or road to the property is definitely not a guarantee.

4.  If your salesman tells you that you can subdivide the property and resell it for a quick profit, don’t just take his word for it. Tell him you want proof. Many municipalities have minimum size lots and sometimes the promise of quick profits can cloud sound judgment.  Oh, how are you going to arrange for utilities to your new subdivided lots?   Do you think realistically that you can arrange these items with a phone call?   Think again.
land for sale  sold

5.  If you are one of the many potential buyers who is thinking about buying a property sight unseen, THINK TWICE. You wouldn’t do it in your own hometown. Why would you do it in a foreign country?

6.  Don’t be dazzled by a salesman’s promise of quick profits, a new marina or a hospital or highway “right around the corner.”   Time moves slowly in Costa Rica, and installing the infrastructure you are counting on could realistically (and probably will) drag on for years.

7.  If you have responded to an e-mail, TV ad, or Google ad, you will get a telephone call extolling the virtues and profitability of the property in question. Ask the salesman where he is calling from. The odds are very high that he is calling from Florida and that he has not even seen the property. Go ahead, ask him. And ask yourself what kind of credibility this person could possibly have if he has not even seen the property or doesn’t even  live in Costa Rica.

8.  Ask the person selling the property for his cédula or basically his license to sell here in Costa Rica.   This is important. 
 
You may also be asking yourself “if there is something wrong with this property I should have already seen something negative about it, right?”

Actually, this is one side of Costa Rica that almost no foreigner knows about. Any negatives or “badmouthing“ of specific properties can result in lawsuits. Slander and libel in Costa Rica carry huge penalties. 
 
Costa Rica IS a fantastic place to live or to visit. And it can be a great place to own property. But it can also be a nightmare for many who don’t do their homework. Make sure you do yours.
 
*Mr. Berg operates CR Home Realty in Grecia.



After fighter is arrested, someone visits and shoots two cops
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
and Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents arrested one of Costa Rica's most famous boxers on a charge of rape Tuesday. Hours later as two policemen guarded his yellow-taped house, cars pulled up. A man shot both police officers, walked into the home, grabbed two bags and left. It all took place early Wednesday morning in San Antonio de Belén, said officials. 

The boxer, Carl Davies Drummonds, 33, was in a holding cell in Heredia when the shooting happened. Davies is accused of raping a woman who worked as a prostitute, said officials. Friends employed the woman for Davies' birthday celebration, which took place in his home last week, said officials.

Authorities obtained a warrant to search Davies' house for
 evidence of the alleged rape Tuesday and planned to enter the house Wednesday around 6 a.m., said Jorge Rojas Vargas, director of the Judicial Investigation Organization.

The man shot the officers about four hours before the search was to take place. One municipal police officer, Óscar Rojas Araya, was left brain dead and the other, Guillermo Brenes was injured in his arm, said officials. The man who grabbed the bags, sped away with his companions, as the officers waited for help to arrive, said Rojas.

“It's obvious that there wasn't candy in those bags” said Rojas. He said however, that officials will not make any public presumptions as to what the bags contained. The man who entered the house did not break in. In fact it seemed he had a set of keys, said Rojas.

Police continue to look for suspects in the shooting. Davies spent over 10 years in prison for a previous rape charge and was released just several years ago, said agents.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 32

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Holders of .cr Internet domains face danger of losing them
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Internet users who hold domains with the suffix .cr will have less than 90 days to renew the name. These include the domains that end with  ac.cr, co.cr, ed.cr, fi.cr, go.cr, or.cr, sa.cr.

After the 90 days starting Feb. 7, the nation's domain registry will allow the names to be registered by anyone, according to a news release. The original owner will lose rights to the domain. In all, there are 7,380 second level domains registered with the .cr suffix representing Costa Rica. 344 of these are go.cr, such as www.casapresidencial.go.cr, which are government agencies.

The Academia Nacional de Ciencias which operates the domain registry, said it is eliminating all the double dot names in favor of a simple .cr suffix. The change will cost, too. The agency is charging $100 for each domain reregistration.
In contrast, some domain registrars elsewhere in the world charge as low as $1.99 a year to register a domain name with a .com, a .tv or .info suffix.

The academy appears poised to reap a windfall approaching $800,000 if all the current domains are reregistered. But many probably will not. Already some Costa Rican names have been registered with a simple .com suffix. These include casapresidencial.com and bancodecostarica.com, according to a quick check of world domain registrations.

They join many other Costa Rican-based companies that have a simple .com suffix for their Web page domain, including nacion.com

Registration elsewhere requires just a valid credit card and a few computer clicks. But in Costa Rica corporate applicants for new names must provide about the same paperwork as would be needed to open a bank account, including a personería jurídica. Even individuals have to provide a letter requesting the domain.


Venezuela's ExxonMobile cutoff not seen having big effect
By the A.M. Costa Rica Wires services

Venezuela says it has halted oil sales to U.S.-based ExxonMobil as part of a legal dispute over compensation for the firm's assets in the country. Venezuela also has criticized U.S. officials for allegedly backing ExxonMobil against the socialist government.

State oil company Petroleos de Venezuela said it "paralyzed" exports to Exxon and cut all commercial ties with the Texas-based firm late Tuesday. Venezuelan officials accuse the firm of economic harassment after Exxon won a court order in Europe freezing $12 billion in Venezuelan assets abroad.

In recent days, Venezuelan officials have threatened to cut off all sales to the United States, which is Venezuela's top customer. Tuesday's decision, however, only affects a small portion of oil exports.

Former head of Latin America operations for Amoco Oil, Jorge Piñon, says the move against Exxon will have little impact on the U.S. oil industry. He added:

"Most likely that amount of oil will still come into the U.S. but instead of going to Exxon it will go to Citgo which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Petroleos de Venezuela."

Exxon Mobil declined to comment on Venezuela's announcement, but a senior executive said the company hopes to negotiate for compensation of its assets in Venezuela.

The U.S.-based firm is seeking payment for oil installations that Caracas agreed to take over last year, after the two sides failed to negotiate a new contract. ExxonMobil says the assets are worth as much as $2 billion, and Venezuela says the value is much lower.
Venezuelan officials have accused Washington of taking an active role in the legal dispute in an effort to harm Venezuela. This week, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said the country would defend its oil policies and its sovereignty.

Maduro says the U.S. government is trying to destabilize Venezuela and convert the nation into what he called an oil-producing colony.

Tuesday, White House press secretary Dana Perino said the issue between Venezuela and ExxonMobil is a civil matter, referring to other pending lawsuits.

"When there is a litigation that's ongoing, different parties will say anything to try to win an argument, and it's not something that the federal government is going to get involved in," she said.

Oil experts say the dispute over compensation could last several years before the two sides reach an agreement. But they say the export cut-off will have little impact on world oil prices because ExxonMobil has limited activities in Venezuela.

Piñon added that Venezuela is unlikely to carry out threats of further cuts of exports to the U.S. because it relies on American customers and refineries to process its heavy crude.

"There are not many countries, or many refineries in the world that can handle heavy crude oil from Venezuela. So the main challenge is going to be to Venezuela and not to the United States," he said.

Venezuela has said it is pursuing new refinery projects in Nicaragua, Ecuador and other countries to reduce its reliance on the United States.


U.S. puts Colombian rebels on notice over its hostages
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. State Department is urging Colombia's largest leftist rebel group to immediately release all hostages in its custody, saying the U.S. holds the guerrillas responsible for the captives' health and well-being.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack made the remark Wednesday in a statement that coincided with the fifth anniversary of the kidnapping of three American defense contractors, Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell.

The rebel group is the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, and its members have been branded by the United States and other countries as terrorists.

McCormack said the contractors were on a joint
U.S.-Colombia anti-drug reconnaissance mission when their aircraft made an emergency landing due to mechanical failure. Rebels patrolling the area captured them and killed two crew members, Thomas Jannis, the American pilot, and Luis Cruz, a Colombian army sergeant.

The spokesman said the United States fully supports the Colombian government in its efforts to achieve the safe recovery of all hostages, some of whom have been held for 10 years.

Earlier this month, tens of thousands of Colombians marched to demand that the FARC stop kidnapping people and release its captives. Hostages include French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, who was kidnapped six years ago, and at least 40 other high-profile captives.

The rebels hold about 750 hostages in jungle hideouts.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 32

juemialma
Teatro Nacional Image
Folkloric dance involves traditional clothing and instruments, in a visual feast that spans Latin America
Teatro Nacional show to reinvent traditional dance
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A traditional and visually enchanting style of national dance comes to the Teatro Nacional this weekend.

Billowing skirts and wide-brimmed sombreros are energetically incorporated into folkloric dance, a genre that will be explored in "Juemialma," to be danced by the Compañia Folclórica del Auditorio Nacional Saturday and Sunday.

Folkloric is a dance that links the modern era to historic roots, and has been passed down through generations. There are variations of this type of dance all over Latin America, and Guanacaste is the center of all things folkloric in Costa Rica.

The color of the skirt or the patterns of the steps may be different, but the similarities between each country, and
each region's particular folkloric dance can easily be deduced.

The theme is usually a romantic one with maidens falling for men in cowboy hats amid the coffee plantations.

Rogelio Lopez, Juemialma's choreographer, started researching the work in 1996, with a vision that the dance would be a synthesis of Costa Rican identity and a reinvention of traditional folkloric dancing.

“All that we are is a product of a constant mixing that gives character to our human identities and variety to the human geography of our nation,” he was quoted as saying.

Video will be used alongside the dance presentation, which starts at 8 p.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday.  Tickets cost from 2,000 colons ($4) and are available at www.teatronacional.com.


Art Galleries ....

Rembrandt exhibition opens to high acclaim in downtown San José

Rembrandt etching
Hailed as the most important exhibition of the year, a collection of the Dutch master Rembrandt's etchings opened amid much praise Thursday.

The 48 etchings usually reside in Amsterdam's Rembrandt House Museum, where the artist lived for about 20 years from 1620-40. They were collaboratively chosen from a wider collection by Dora Maria Sequiera, the director of Museos del Banco Central and Ed de Heer, the director of the Rembrandt House Museum.

Although now better known for his marvelous paintings that capture intense emotion, facial expression, and deeply contrasted light and shadow, the etchings that are now on show in San José are considered by art buffs to be just as important.

“Rembrandt was the most influential and original etchers possibly of all time,” said de Heer. “He is a shining beacon because he changed etching from a reproductive medium to a fully fledged artistic medium.

“He used all sorts of different techniques to get all the possibilities out of the medium — he printed on copper plate, parchment, even sheepskin to make luxurious editions of prints. He didn't want any two to be the same.”

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Chicken suits, foot photos brought to Galeria Nacional by art colony residents

nancy ennisThose with a sharp eye who look closely at Nancy Ennis' collages will find a man in a chicken costume haunting each one.

In some, he is the main focus of the piece, and in others he is as invisible as a smudge behind a layer of material.

“One of my kids gave me this photo of their Dad when younger,” said Mrs. Ennis, as she pointed out the eerie figure, standing amid her as-yet unhung exhibition in the Galeria Nacional. “I like it because my ex-husband was a very funny man, although very irresponsible.”

Mrs. Ennis, an American who lives in New Jersey, has been creating artwork on Costa Rican soil for the last six weeks, working in a private artists colony in Ciudad Colon.

She is one of several dozen who seek out Costa Rica's tropical climes each year to spend a residency in the Julia and David White Artists' Colony.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Festivals ...

Puntarenas Carnival 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.


Back in Medieval times, games, dances and a lot of banqueting was the indulgence to get people prepared for lent, before it was placed under strict prohibition by King Carlos I of Spain in 1523, and not restored until the reign of Felipe IV who came to the throne in 1605.

The tradition has certainly revived itself effectively, with carnavals now taking place all over the globe, and the Puntarenas Carnaval is Costa Rica's grandest party of the year.

2008's crowned carnival queen, chosen from a line-up of 10 girls in stringy bikinis, will parade through the streets to start off the celebrations on Feb. 14.

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Food...

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.

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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...

Season tickets on sale for symphony lovers

Costa Rica's leading orchestra fills the Teatro Nacional with classical music from March through to December, and season tickets are now on sale for those who do not want to miss any of the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional's performances.

Under Chosei Komatsu's dedicated baton, the orchestra will interpret works by hoards of renowned composers, from Beethoven, Chopin and Shostakovich to Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky and Liszt. Modern musical talents will also feature, with soloists from around the world flying in to join the orchestra during the program of 12 concerts.

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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 for the first concert, 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.

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.

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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


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

There is a lot to be said for 'limping in' on a hand
Common wisdom in Texas hold’em suggests that you should raise before the flop if you’re planning to play a hand.  The saying goes, “Raise or fold,” but is that correct?  Well, it’s not the worst advice but limiting yourself to one of these two options would be a mistake.

Limping in — entering a pot by calling rather than raising -— is more complicated than raise-or-fold poker because you’ll end up playing more hands.  Also, it’s difficult to put players on a hand when they’re in the pot without making a pre-flop raise.  The big blind, for example, could have any two cards.  Trying to determine his hand can be very tricky.

In certain situations, the best players in the world will limp in rather than raise to disguise the strength of their hands.  Follow these guidelines to add this deceptive tactic to your game, too.

Limp to set a trap in aggressive games

Trap plays work best when there’s lots of raising before the flop and other players have already limped in.

You’ll need to have a premium hand to set the trap, something like pocket aces or kings, or maybe A-K.  Then, call rather than raise, and hope that an overly aggressive player behind you will interpret your limp as a sign of weakness. 

If the trap works and he does try to bully you with a raise, go ahead and re-raise when the action returns to you.

If the trap fails and no one raises before the flop, proceed cautiously because you’ll have no idea what cards your opponents might have.  Any flop could give any player two pair or better.  You’d even have to consider folding your pocket aces if the action gets too heavy after the flop.

When setting a trap, be careful not to get trapped yourself.
 
Limp from the small blind

The small blind is the worst position to play from after the flop.  At the same time, since you already have half the bet in the pot, it’s usually correct to call the other half of the bet.

An interesting situation occurs, though, when you find yourself in the small blind versus the big blind, with everyone else out of the hand.  Too many players in this scenario make 



the mistake of thinking, “Only one blind left, this should be an easy blind to steal.”

In fact, this is probably the toughest blind to steal because thebig blind will suspect larceny.  Even more important, you’ll be out of position throughout the entire hand.  Playing from the small blind, your goal should be to minimize losses rather than to try to bully a player who has the power of position.

Limp in first to change the pace of the game

Sometimes you’ll feel that the game is too aggressive pre-flop, making it difficult for you to outplay your opponents post-flop.  In these situations, you can slow the pace of the game by limping in first, hoping that other players will adopt your style of play.  This tactic works particularly well if you’re a solid player with strong hand reading skills.

Limp behind other limpers

Your choices are definitely not limited to raising or folding after other players have limped into the pot.  Say that two players have already limped in and you’re holding pocket threes.  In this case, limping in to see a cheap flop is the best approach.

While limping in isn’t a tactic for everyone, the play definitely enhances poker deception.  That’s because the more willing you are to shift gears, the tougher it will be for your opponents to get an accurate read on you.
 
Visit www.cardsharkmedia.com/book.html 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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