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(506) 2223-1327               San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 17, 2010,  Vol. 10, No. 53     E-mail us
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Irish have made their marks on Latin America, too
By Christopher Howard*
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Saint Patrick's Day is an annual feast day that celebrates the most commonly recognized of the patron saints of Ireland and is generally celebrated today, March 17.

Legend has it that St. Patrick became the patron saint of Ireland for, among other things, raising the dead and driving snakes out of Ireland. In the United States, drinking has been the way of celebrating St. Patrick's Day since it originally began. The excuse for drinking came from a rumor that Saint Patrick brought the art of running a distillery to Ireland.

The shamrock became a symbol of the celebration because it is said that the saint used it to explain the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Ghost or Spirit) as he converted the Irish to Christianity.

Saint Partick’s Day is celebrated in many places in Latin America, including Costa Rica. There is  usually some type of Saint Patrick's Day celebration at any of the local bars where Americans hang out.

You will be surprised to know that there have been many prominent Latin Americans of Irish descent. Probably the most famous was Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme (Aug. 20, 1778 - Oct. 24, 1842). O’Higgins was a South American independence leader who, together with José de San Martín, freed Chile from Spanish rule in the Chilean War of Independence. O’Higgins was granted dictatorial powers as supreme director of the country Feb. 16, 1817, and on Feb. 12, 1818, Chile was proclaimed its independent republic through the Chilean Declaration of Independence.  For six years, O'Higgins was a largely successful leader, and his government initially functioned well. In time, however, he began to alienate important political factions. Eventually he was deposed in 1823 due to a growing opposition. O'Higgins lived in exile for the rest of his life.

O'Higgins is widely commemorated today, both in Chile and beyond. The Chilean village of Villa O'Higgins was named in his honor. The main thoroughfare of the Chilean capital, Santiago, is Avenida Libertador General Bernardo O'Higgins.  There is even a plaque in his honor in Merrion Square in Dublin as well as a bust in Parque Morazán in San José.

Another famous Latino of Irish ancestry was Antonio Rodolfo Quinn. Most people know this late actor by the name of Anthony Quinn. One of his most famous roles was that of Eufemio, Emiliano Zapata’s brother, in the movie classic “Viva Zapata!” starring Marlon Brando. The screenplay was written by John Steinbeck.

A notable arm of the Mexican Army during the Mexican-American War was The Saint Patrick's Battalion (Batallón de San Patricio). It was a group of around several hundred immigrants of European descent (made up primarily of ethnic Irish and German Catholic immigrants), who fought as part of the Mexican Army against the United States in the Mexican-American War of 1846 to 1848. Most of the battalion's members were deserters from the U.S. Army.  The majority of these men were immigrants who had arrived at northeastern U.S. ports, as part of the Irish diaspora to escape the Irish Potato Famine and extremely poor economic conditions in Ireland. Therefore, many chose military service because other jobs were not available to them.

Considered traitors at home, there are several theories as to why the immigrants fought for Mexico. First, the Mexican government offered incentives to foreigners who would enlist in its army: it granted them citizenship, paid higher wages than the U.S. Army and gave generous land grants.  Others say it was due to the mistreatment of immigrants by their Anglo-protestant officers and prejudice in the military. Some historians believed a primary motivation was the Catholic religion they shared with the Mexicans and sympathy for the Mexican cause, likely based on similarities between the situations in Mexico and Ireland. For many Mexicans The Saint Patrick’s Batallion is still fondly remembered and its members considered heroes.

Mexicans hold the Irish in very high regard. St. Patrick is the patron saint of many towns in 
Bernardo O'Higgins
A.M.Costa Rica photo
Capitan General O'Higgins keeps watch in Parque Morazán in San José.

Mexico.  The three joined towns of Melaque, Villa Obregon, and San Patricio celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with the Fiesta del Torros.  The festivities include rodeo events, bullfights, parades, folk dancing, and fireworks.

Here is Saint Patrick’s Day vocabulary in Spanish:

Bagpipes (Irish uilleann pipes bag) - La gaita irlandesa

Clover — el trébol

Corn beef and cabbage — Carne acecinada y repollo (cabbage). Please don’t confuse acecinada with asesinada which means assassinated. Acecinar means to salt meat, dry it and then smoke it.

Emerald green — verde esmeralda

Emerald Isle — Irlanda

Gold — oro (metal), dorado (color)

Green — verde

Ireland — Irlanda

Irishman — irlandés

Irish woman — irlandesa

Legend — la leyenda

Leprechaun — duende  or gnono

Lucky — afortunado, suertudo

March — marzo (the month)

Parade — el desfile

Patrick — Patricio

Pot of gold — La olla or perol de oro

Rainbow — el arco iris

Saint — el santo

St. Paddy's Day — el día de San Patricio

St. Patrick — San Patricio

Snake — la serpiente

Shamrock — el trébol

Walking stick — bastón

Wish — el deseo. Pedir un deseo is to make a wish

* Christopher Howard, who has a master's degree in linguistics and Spanish, is the author/publisher of the 16th edition of the perennial  bestselling  "The New Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica," "Guide to Real Estate in Costa Rica" and the one-of-a-kind "Official Guide to Costa Rican Spanish." He also is a relocation and retirement expert who conducts custom and group retirement/relocation tours every month.  For information: www.liveincostarica.com. Articles similar to the above may be found at www.costaricaspanish.net

Hanging San Patricio members
Painted in the 1840s by Sam Chamberlain via Wikipedia
Some 30 members of the San Patricio unit were hanged as deserters Sept. 13, 1847, as U.S. troops stormed and captured Chapultepec Castle. This is a contemporary painting.



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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 17, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 53

Costa Rica Expertise
Costa Rica Expertise Ltd http://crexpertise.com E-mail info@crexpertise.com Tel:506-256-8585 Fax:506-256-7575

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Real estate agents and services

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with Great Estates of Costa Rica

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Hearing consultant

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New bookstore owner
A.M. Costa Rica/Manuel Avendaño Arce 
Larue Goldfinch in his Driftwood Books.

Man behind new bookstore
is former literature professor

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The man behind the new bookstore in Escazú Centro is a former professor of literature who has turned his avocation into an occupation. The owner is Larue Goldfinch, and the store is Driftwood Books.

Unlike some stores opened by expats, Driftwood also contains literature from Holland and France and books in English and Spanish. There also are children's books.

The owner comes from Georgia, but he has been in Costa Rica for nearly 30 years where he was a university professor and director of two bilingual high schools.

The name of the store comes from Goldfinch's observation that books travel from hand to hand like wood floating on the sea, he said. The store is open Monday through Thursday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The store offers used books and has a swap program.

The store is on the square in Escazú Centro one block north of Banco Nacional in the Centro Comercial Plaza Escazú

Road death puts focus
on traffic law changes


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is a growing wave of opposition to liberalizing the nation's penalty against drunk driving.

The death Sunday of a dentist has galvanized the protests. The dentist, Cristopher Lang Arce, 31, was standing by his bike on the Autopista Florencio del Castillo in La Unión when a vehicle struck him. The operator of the vehicle fled but was later detained to face a drunk driving allegation.

The motorist is Alberto Rivera Sanabria, who is the son of a former member of the legislature and an official in the first Óscar Arias Sánchez administration.

Lang was a competition bicyclist and had just participated in an event. It was shortly after 7 a.m., and Rivera was said to be returning from a late party.

The traffic law passed more than a year ago sought jail time for drunk drivers. But subsequent changes mandate jail time only if someone is injured or the motorist is a repeat offender.

Our reader's opinion
What is the reason behind
the devaluation of dollar


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In the past three to four months the value of the U.S. dollar vs. the Costa Rican colon has declined over 10 percent.   We have had two articles that I have seen regarding this, one in A.M. Costa Rica and the other in another online paper.   There were no details and no explanations at that time except to say that as things return to "normal" in the States the dollar would most likely return to its former levels.
 
Considering that the dollar has actually advanced against almost all other major currencies throughout the world in the past three to four months, what is the explanation here?  Is there truly a scientific basis or financial basis for these fluctuations, which truly seem random or at the very least, opposite of common sense.  

This is causing a great deal of consternation and confusion among not only local expats but also those considering moving to Costa Rica. They have lost 10 percent of their purchasing power in the past couple of months. 
Anyone have a clue?
Randy Berg
Grecia

EDITOR'S NOTE: Among other things, Costa Rica keeps exporting products to the United States and collects dollars. But Costa Ricans are buying less in the way of dollar-denominated imports.

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A.M. Costa Rica guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages
Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

Searching
The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

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A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Classifieds
Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

Contacting us
Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 17, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 53

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There are two typical paths to Costa Rican citizenship
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

One way expat residents might avoid paying the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social for health care is to take out Costa Rican nationality. There are two ways to qualify: marry a citizen or live legally in the country for seven years.

One problem with the later approach is that Costa Rica asks new citizens to surrender their previous nationality.

Despite changes in the immigration law to crack down on marriages of convenience, the process to get citizenship by marriage is easier than ever. An applicant can’t have legal residency or work for two years after the nuptials, but then it’s a rather easy bureaucratic procedure to obtain nationality, certainly more straightforward than getting permanent residency from the Dirección General de Migración.

All an applicant needs is: A letter, and the government gives the format. A certified copy of the current passport. A showing that the applicant is of good character and hasn’t been in trouble in Costa Rica. Actually workers at the Registro Civil will look up the applicant's police record and don’t seem to care about any dark side to pre-Costa Rica activities. They will similarly check on the marriage once they learn who the spouse is.

Applicants also have to show that they have been residents in the country full time with the entrance/exit registers obtained from immigration. Then five passport photos are required.

“Any document that is deteriorated, illegible, dirty, blurry, with corrections, strikethroughs, marks, or erased sections” will not be accepted, the rules say.

Lines are relatively short and the functionaries pleasant. Then workers will sit on the application for a year or two to verify the individual's identity and to make sure he or she does not get in any trouble in the meantime. An applicant for citizenship as a spouse does not have to give up the present citizenship. Then it’s just a matter of learning the words to the national anthem.

To get residency based on time living here is rather more complicated, since it is based on a 1950 law less concerned with the interests of a Costa Rican spouse then on weeding out undesirables. Both permanent residents
typical cedula
Citizen's cédula de Identidad issued by Registro Civil


and temporary residents like pensionados and rentistas are eligible. U.S. citizens have to be here legally seven years.

An applicant needs the above documents as well as: a certified copy of the birth certificate; additional documents about previous and present legal residency status, proof of income to show financial solvency; and two character witnesses.

The big one for expats though, is that applicants must “demonstrate that you know how to speak, read, and write the Spanish language and have a familiarity with Costa Rican history and values.” This is achieved by passing the school-leaving exams at sixth grade level for Spanish and social studies, or having other studies certified by the education ministry.

Once that’s all taken care of the applicant must “renounce present citizenship;” “reside in Costa Rica in a stable and regular manner;” and “swear to uphold the constitutional order.”

The requirement to give up previous citizenship is about to be challenged with a Sala IV appeal by a woman in Playas del Coco. The appeal is expected to challenge the unequal status the present law creates for the two routes to nationality, by marriage and by residency.

Giving up citizenship probably is something U.S. citizens will want to consider long and hard.

For more information or to start the process, applicants should go to the Sección de Opciones y Naturalizaciones in the Registro Civil, part of the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones, in San José.


Those taking naturalization test need to do a little studying
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Those expats interested in Costa Rican citizenship but not married to a citizen face a major barrier in the naturalization exam. Essentially, it’s the school-leaving test for sixth graders, in Spanish and social studies.

The Spanish test includes two parts: writing and reading comprehension. The writing test is a short essay, not fewer than 200 words, about one of four themes given at the time of the exam. In an hour and a half, the applicant should produce a structured composition with introduction, body, and conclusion; correct use of capital letters, accents and tildes, spelling of the tricky letters c, s, and z, b and v, etc., block and cursive letters, verb-subject and number-adjective agreement, and punctuation. English speakers actually can have fewer problems with some of these themes than native speakers, who sound out spelling and accents.

The essay counts for 60 percent of the score.

The reading comprehension section is 40 percent. The supplicant will read aloud a short passage, then answer several questions for an interviewer. The whole section should not last more than 10 minutes.

A passing score is 70 out of 100. A reasonably competent speaker of Spanish as a second language should be able to manage the literacy test, as most of the themes touched are really little different from English.

Social studies requires a bit more attention to the facts. Most adult Costa Ricans would have trouble with this test, as it’s largely the sort of history students memorize and then forget.

Section one is geography, with questions on the country’s location, boundaries, political and administrative divisions, protected areas, physical features and climate.
Section two is history, with pre-Columbian societies, the Spanish conquest, the process of colonization, independence, and the events of the latter half of the 19th century including the annexation of Guanacaste and the inevitable Juan Santamaría story.

Section three is “Costa Rica in the 20th Century.” (Apparently nothing has happened in the last 10 years.) The first half of the century with social changes in the 1940s culminating in the civil war of 1948; the 1950-1982 period of state-dominated development and the current governmental structure.

Then present-day Costa Rica with reference to the “values” part of the requirement of the naturalization law. Students should know the social values, symbols like the national bird and flower, civic culture, Costa Rican identity, and civil rights.

Much of this material is dogmatic in nature, and there is even a section under values called that. Even with a good knowledge of Costa Rican history, it would be necessary to see the textbook to know the official version. This book is available from the Dirección de Gestión y Evaluación de Calidad, the division of the education ministry in charge of these matters.

That is where registration takes place in any case. One can register at any time. The test is given four times per year. The next one is June 27 at the Liceo Luis Dobles Segrega near La Sabana in San José. Requirements to register are a copy of one’s identification, a “timbre de archivo” for 20 colons (one of those postage stamp things), 4,500 colons deposited in the Banco Nacional for each test, and a passport photo.

The Gestión y Evaluación office is at Avenida 10, Calle Central y Primera.  More details are HERE. 


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 17, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 53


Scientist study deaths of brown pelicans at Río Tarcoles

Special to A.M. Costa Rica
 
A team of ornithologists and other scientists is investigating a mysterious die off of pelicans in the Río Tárcoles  estuary. Reports from the scene suggest 50-100 died along the river and near the mouth.

Local tour guide Luis Campos said a similar loss took place last year at the same time. The Tárcoles drains most of the Central Valley and has a major pollution load, but because the brown pelican feeds in deep water that is apparently not
a direct factor. Speculation has some sort of red tide event poisoning the birds, but ornithologist Julio Sánchez of the Museo nacional said a scientific team is checking on the situation.

Other fish-eating birds like frigatebirds, gulls, terns, and cormorants have not been affected, said Campos.

Brown pelicans nest on several colonies around Guanacaste and the Gulf of Nicoya, with most breeding activity this time of year. Many young in the nest will likely perish.



Dole and Austrian chain donate mobile medical unit

Special To A.M. Costa Rica

Dole Food Company, Inc. said Tuesday that it inaugurated this week a mobile medical unit, which now offers some rural communities of the Atlantic Coast of Costa Rica access to preventive medicine and specialized health attention.

This mobile medical unit consists of a container divided into three fully-equipped medical rooms, which provide patients with a wide range of medical services such as: general medicine, gastroscopy, ultrasound scan, ophthalmology, pediatrics, blood donation, osteoporosis analysis, vaccination campaigns and laboratory exams. The unit was donated to the Club Leones de Costa Rica in Pococí, which is now responsible, with Dole’s support, for managing the unit, coordinating the medical staff’s planning and organizing health campaigns.

"Even though Costa Rica’s social security system is well developed and has local clinics in most of the communities of the Atlantic zone, this mobile medical unit will be an additional tool to bring specialized medical services to remote areas, services that are mainly provided in urban areas. We expect this new unit to treat over 10,000 people per year," said Danilo Román, general manager, Standard Fruit de Costa Rica.

This unit was financed by Dole and Spar, an Austrian supermarket chain, through an extra contribution made by consumers during a campaign run in Austria between February and May 2009.
Dole mobil unit
Photo: Business Wire
Mobil medical unit donated by Dole and Spar

"After the school was built in Ecuador in 2008 together with a Norwegian customer, this joint initiative with Spar further demonstrates the common interest of Dole and its customers in supporting the communities living in production areas. Dole will continue to develop similar partnerships whether in the social or environmental area," said Sylvain Cuperlier, vice president, director of worldwide corporate social responsibility for Dole.

Dole, with 2009 net revenues of $6.8 billion, is the world’s largest producer and marketer of high-quality fresh fruit and fresh vegetables, and is the leading producer of organic bananas. Dole markets a growing line of packaged and frozen fruit and is a produce industry leader in nutrition education and research.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 17, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 53

Medical vacations in Costa Rica


Students want the right
to photocopy their texts


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

First the bar owners and radio stations did not want to pay music producers for using their songs.

Now students will be going to the Asamblea Legislativa today demanding the right to photocopy textbooks.

There is a proposed bill that would allow students to do this. The 10 a.m. protest is being supported by the Partido Acción Ciudadana.

Although most intellectual property laws allow students and teacher to make limited copies of articles and book chapters, the wholesale coping of texts is considered theft.

In most cases not a lot of money is saved by photocopying because the copying charge can be significant.

Texts frequently are priced high because the sales potential is limited.

The issue of the bar owners appears to have been settled when President Óscar Arias signed a decree that exempted the country from several sections of international intellectual property treaties.

Many Costa Ricans believe that paying for radio or music in a commercial setting or forbidding the copying of texts is something that stems from the free trade treaty with the United States. But the concepts are enshrined in international pacts that long predate the one with the United States.

Firemen have new center
for administrative duties


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Firemen now have a new administrative center north of the La Coca Cola bus terminal at Avenida 2 and Calle 18.

The Cuerpo de Bomberos spent 424 million colons to renovate an existing building, some $800,000. Ranking officers in the three-story structure will supervise the 63 fire stations and their personnel in the country.

The fire-fighting agency has been separated from the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, the former insurance monopoly, as part of the plan to open that market to private firms.

Government officials, including President Óscar Arias Sánchez, held an inauguration ceremony there Tuesday although the structure has been in use for some time.



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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 17, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 53


Latin American news
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Juárez residents upset
with Calderón on crime

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Mexican President Felipe Calderón visited Mexico's most violent city Tuesday, where he was met by a crowd of angry protesters.

Calderón spoke with community leaders in the border area of Ciudad Juárez, where gunmen shot and killed three people linked to the U.S. consulate Saturday.

The demonstrators complained about the acceleration of violence, despite Calderon's effort to fight the drug war with military troops.

The Mexican leader said the fight against organized crime should be shared with the United States. Juárez has been on the front line of President Calderon's war on drug cartels.

More than 15,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico in recent years.

Separately, the governor of Texas has boosted police presence along the Mexican border.

Gov. Rick Perry released a statement Tuesday calling on Washington to immediately provide additional resources to prevent violence from spilling over from Mexico into neighboring border communities in Texas.

The governor says that since January of 2009, a reported 4,700 homicides have been committed in Juárez, making it one of the most violent cities in the world.  Juárez is across the border from El Paso, Texas.


Four held in bank stickup

By the A.M. Costa Rica  staff

Investigators have detained four persons as suspects in the robbery of the Banco Lafise in San Rafael de Escazú Jan. 29.

The Poder Judicial said that one of the suspects, identified by the last names of Flores Alfaro, is being investigated for robberies at HSBC in Alajuela and Tibás and of Banco de Costa Rica in Alajuela.

The other three men were identified by the last names of  Molina Corella, Durán Martínez and Leiva Mata.

In all cases the robberies were by armed individuals.




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