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(506) 2223-1327      Published Friday, May 8, 2009,  in  Vol. 9, No. 90     E-mail us
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Sometimes justice seems to be a revolving door
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The way Costa Rican judges apply the concepts of conditional liberty or pre-trial detention is enough to make an expat's head swim.

One case involves Carlos Hernán Robles Macaya, a lawyer who also was the former manager of the failed Banco Anglo.  

He was jailed in 1997 for 25 years after being convicted of 90 counts of misusing public funds from the state bank.

Strictly speaking Robles has received conditional liberty because he already had been convicted.

Robles has been out of prison before while the sentence was appealed. That is how he committed acts that resulted in a 10-year sentence for trafficking minors.  He was involved in the September 2003 case in which officials found nine children, two weeks to 20 months old, at a La Uruca home. Robles claimed he was only doing legal work for the children's adoption.

One of the conditions of his release, ordered March 31, is that he get a job, so he probably will be going back in the legal business.

Last week a judge ordered Ricardo Alem León back to jail after a judge released him from preventative detention. Some 30 kilos of cocaine were found in the storage area of one of his companies last year, and law enforcement officials are trying to link him and his associates to a major drug shipment that was intercepted.

Nevertheless on the eve of the Semana Santa holiday a judge ordered his release. That was April 14. Prosecutors were nervous because when they arrested Alem, they found a fake passport with his photo and other indications that he might want to leave town.

The possibility of flight is one of the reasons judges consider when weighing preventative detention in lieu of lesser measures, like signing in with the prosecutor every 15 days.

Many judges recognize that the slow speed of the judicial system would be a serious violation of the rights of a man jailed only to be acquitted at trial.

Another consideration is if the suspect has roots in the community. That probably figured Thursday when a judge released a top police officer.

Released is the commander of the Fuerza Pública in Tibás. He was found by judicial police riding in a stolen car Tuesday night. Prosecutors asked that he be jailed, but a judge declined to do so. Instead the judge released the commander, who has the last name of Hernández, and others involved.

That decision is under appeal, but Hernandez was going to return to his job of running the police services in Tibás.
revolving door

Prosecutors did manage to get one suspect off the streets, according to the Poder Judicial. A report Thursday said that a man charged with confronting a woman April in a Pococi restaurant, slashing her throat and stabbing a waiter has to go to jail. The woman was celebrating her birthday when the assailant appeared.

The woman reported two days earlier that she had to throw herself from the suspect's car because she thought he was going to kill her. He is a former companion.

A judge let the man free, but an appeal by the prosecutors was successful, the Poder Judicial said.

Meanwhile the management of the Museo Nacional is upset because a gang of hooded young men spray painted the north wall of the museum during the May 1 labor day demonstrations. Police caught eight and took them to the Juzgado Contravencional de Flagrancia del Segundo Circuito Judicial.

Museum officials complained in a press release Thursday that the judge released the men on the condition that they not repeat the vandalism. Museum officials said they were trying to get that ruling set aside because the museum, as a victim, never had a chance to present its case. The damage is about 3.5 million colons, about $6,000, the museum release said.

There is really only one sure fact about preventative detention. Expats involved or thought to be involved in any type of crime almost certainly end up in the San Sebastian jail for a long while.

As for Robles, after he spends 12 years in conditional freedom at home he is supposed to return to prison to serve the sentence on the child trafficking charge.

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Flu numbers remain stable
at one confirmed case here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

The nation continues to be one of seven Western Hemisphere countries with a confirmed case of swine flu.

In Central America, Guatemala and El Salvador have reported confirmed cases, and there is a case in Colombia, according to the health ministry.

Health officials here have not been able to confirm the disease in what they call eight probable cases. There continues to be 137 cases being studied.

Seven of the probable cases have been traced to the one confirmed case and two other probables. The three are being called first generation flu victims.

The situation is being confused by the appearance of the seasonal flu that has similar symptoms.

Although only two persons have been hospitalized because of the flu and the remaining individuals seem to have light symptoms, the Ministerio de Salud still is treating the situation as a major epidemic. Hundreds remain quarantined while officials see if they develop flu symptoms or their report comes from a lab.

In Mexico, authorities say 44 people have now died of the H1N1 influenza-A virus and they are urging caution as life returns to normal after bars, restaurants and most public gatherings were closed down as a precautionary measure. While health experts say the virus is still a concern, they believe the worst is over, at least for now.

Mexican health minister José Ángel Cordova confirmed Thursday that 44 deaths have now been attributed to the H1N1 virus.

He says there have been 1,204 cases confirmed in Mexico so far and that 44 of those have resulted in death. He says the rate of new infections seems to have slowed, however, he still recommends caution, especially in public places.

He said people should not crowd together in public places, staying, at minimum, one meter, 70 centimeters from the next person or family in a stadium or auditorium. He also recommends the use of face masks in public and the use of anti-microbial gels and frequent hand washing.

Some Mexicans have questioned the logic of shutting down most of the country because of the flu threat, only to re-open everything a little over a week later. But both Mexican and international health officials say such measures probably kept the virus from spreading further than it did.

One of the health experts supporting the Mexican actions is Thomas Ksiazek at the Galveston National Laboratory on the campus of the University of Texas Medical Branch.

"They erred on the side of caution, initially, until they could take a look at what the situation appeared to be," said Thomas Ksiazek. "I think they have done some analysis of how much transmission there was and they are changing their preventive measures on the basis of what they have seen and now know."

Ksiazek just returned from a two-day visit to the Mexican state of Veracruz, where some of the early cases of the new flu strain were reported.  He says laboratories and hospitals there are well prepared to handle whatever new cases may appear.

He says one thing that mitigates against a worsening epidemic in Mexico at this time is the season. Ksiazek says the virus could still threaten people in the southern hemisphere, where flu season is starting, but the main threat for the northern hemisphere may be months away when the new flu season begins.

"I think it is still possible that this could become a major epidemic or so-called pandemic strain as the next flu season visits us and our neighbors to the south may yet encounter it this year," said Ksiazek.

For this reason, Ksiazek says, developing a vaccine against this virus is very important. He says a number of laboratories around the world have samples of the virus they can use to create a vaccine. If they do not encounter problems, he says, pharmaceutical companies may be able to produce large quantities of the vaccine before the end of this year. 

Worldwide, the number of people infected with the influenza A(H1N1) virus has topped 2,000, the United Nations health agency confirmed Thursday, stressing that although symptoms for the vast majority of the cases are mild, there is no room for complacency.

The World Health Organization noted that its international pandemic alert remains at phase 5, on a six-level warning scale, as the number of laboratory confirmed cases rises to 2,099 — up by 441 from Wednesday — including 44 deaths.

Some 23 countries reported influenza infection, with the United States verifying 642 cases and two deaths.

Cheerleaders will compete
for championship in Jacó

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national summer cheerleading championships will be Saturday on the beach in Jacó.

More than 2,500 participants in some 30 teams are expected, according to the Central Pacific Chamber of Commerce.

The host, Hotel Best Western Jacó Beach, also has the aerobics championship scheduled.

Most scamming attempts
aimed at BNCR bank clients

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The judicial police and the Banco Nacional de Costa Rica report continual phishing efforts by Internet scammers.

The scammers try to steal passwords and account names by sending false e-mail messages. Those who reply go to the Web page of the scammers and not the bank.

Both the bank and the law enforcement agency urge persons not to reply to such messages and start fresh with a new Web browser page for any bank transactions over the Internet.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 8, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 90

The historical river event that just never happened
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Not very often does a newspaper error figure in diplomatic tension.

That happened Thursday when El Diario Extra ran a photo of a Costa Rican launch and a Nicaraguan patrol boat. The front page cutline under the photo said that the event was historic because both nations were patrolling the Río San Juan.

It is the Río San Juan and Costa Rican access to the waterway that is the subject of a World Court case that is still going on.

The photo came from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. That ministry quickly issued a press release pointing out that the joint patrol was at San Juan del Sur, a Nicaraguan city on the Pacific coast well away from the Nicaraguan river.

"The  Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas of the Ministerio de Seguridad Pública laments the unfortunate confusion of geographical nomenclature in a news item in a national daily over a supposed patrol between Costa Rican and Nicaraguan authorities . . . ," said the statement.

The ministry pointed out that there are no Costa Rican
San Juan del sur

boats on the Río San Juan. The photo clearly shows the two boats in open sea.

The Río San Juan is in Nicaraguan territory. The national border is the south bank of the river. But Costa Rica insists it has the right of free passage based on several international agreements. Nicaragua charges Costa Ricans and also forbids Costa Rican policemen from carrying weapons. The police say the river routes are the easiest way to reach one point in northern Costa Rica from another and that the weapons are needed because they are enforcing the law.

Another week of getting along and ducking disasters
Maybe the first Day of May was a holiday for many but for me it was a real May Day!  It started last month when my carnet (resident’s cedula) went missing.  I like the phrase "went missing" as well as the Costa Rican one se perdió (it lost itself).  I don’t really want to admit that I was responsible.  I guarded it carefully – perhaps too carefully, and like an overprotected child, it ran away. 

Anyway, I had to replace it, so I went to immigration as per instructions and reported it.  But, of course it wasn’t that easy.  I was informed at the Information window where I ended up, that I needed a letter from a lawyer, complete with stamps, saying that I lost it.  Obviously, lawyers are more trustworthy than I.

That was more easily done than expected because my lawyer friend, Ulisis, took care of it promptly.  Then April 29 I went to the bank to take out some money for the long weekend.   I was informed that my two accounts were congeladas (frozen).  This was after first being told that I had insufficient funds.  That phrase is always a prelude to panic – who just raided my accounts!! 

But after some questioning I was informed that a new rule says that everyone banking, at least with national banks, had to bring their data up to date.  I was also informed that we would have to do this every two years.

I gathered my data and returned to the bank the next day, but the wait was so long, I gave up.  Once back home I learned that frugality has its limits.  I had an extra egg yolk in the fridge that I hadn’t used in three days and decided it would be safer to cook it. I put it in the microwave.

After less than an minute a big bang was followed by the door of my microwave bursting open, spraying the well-cooked egg yolk as far as it would reach. 

All was not lost, though, my neighbor Doug, knows something about electronics and he took my microwave to examine it.  Eventually a new fuse made it as good as new.

It was a long and quiet weekend and Sunday I decided a walk in the city would cheer me – the energy of the people and the bustle always does.  The Sabana Cementerio bus became crowded with the people who got on with their purchases at the farmer’s market on 10th Avenue, which I learned, is open on Sundays.
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

I like to read signs and the large billboards at bus stops are usually interesting.  One, in front of Yohan’s department store is encouraging people to Rehace, Reduzca y Reemplace. The English version is “Reuse, Reduce, Replace.”

By the time the bus reached 11th Street, it was nearly empty and few people got on – usually the queue there is long.  Avenida 1 was deserted.  I saw a couple of people in the Magnolia Restaurant (part of the Casino Colonial), so I walked in and the casino was dark.  Only the slot machines were displaying their lights. Otherwise all was quiet and dark. 

That is when I was told that a decree had gone into effect allowing casinos to open only at 3 p.m.  This explained the absence of well-padded gringos and equally well-endowed young women in and around the Del Rey. The peripheral hangers on also were missing.

Further on, perhaps another sign of the times (financial, not legal) was the empty store on the corner of Avenida 3 and Parque Morazan.  I always used to looked in the windows of the upscale souvenir store that had quite a large collection of interesting items – and had been there since I could remember.  Even the bus stop opposite the AutoMercado was empty – in this case, of people.  And there were only about 12 people walking in the entire block.  Relatively speaking, San José was a ghost town. 

The winds of change have not only brought the rainy season. And just in case I wasn’t sure, that evening three dumb bugs came careening through the open windows of my apartment.

“Dumb bug” is not the scientific name for these poor rotund brown insects, but they are dumb. They come in, usually land on their backs and lie there until I rescue them and toss them back outside.  They don’t pick themselves up (or even turn over) and get going again.  I went to bed thinking maybe there is a lesson here – I’m not a dumb bug, after all.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 8, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 90

New study links decline of predatory fish with population
By the Florida State University news service

Sharks, barracuda and other large predatory fishes disappear on Caribbean coral reefs as human populations rise, endangering the region's marine food web and ultimately its reefs and fisheries, according to a sweeping study by researcher Chris Stallings of The Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory.

While other scientists working in the Caribbean have observed the declines of large predators for decades, the comprehensive work by Stallings documents the ominous patterns in far more detail at a much greater geographic scale than any other research to date. His article on the study, "Fishery-Independent Data Reveal Negative Effect of Human Population Density on Caribbean Predatory Fish Communities," is published in the May 6 issue of the journal PLoS One

"Seeing evidence of this ecological and economic travesty played out across the entire Caribbean is truly sobering," said Associate Professor John Bruno of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who served as the PLoS One academic editor for Stallings' paper.

"I examined 20 species of predators, including sharks, groupers, snappers, jacks, trumpetfish and barracuda, from 22 Caribbean nations," said Stallings, a postdoctoral associate at the marine laboratory. "I found that nations with more people have reefs with far fewer large fish because as the number of people increases, so does demand for seafood. Fishermen typically go after the biggest fish first, but shift to smaller species once the bigger ones become depleted. In some areas with large human populations, my study revealed that only a few small predatory fish remain."

Stallings said that although several factors — including loss of coral reef habitats — contributed to the general patterns, careful examination of the data suggests overfishing as the most likely reason for the disappearance of large predatory fishes across the region. He pointed to the Nassau grouper as a prime example.

Once abundant throughout the Caribbean, Nassau grouper have virtually disappeared from many Caribbean nearshore areas and are endangered throughout their range.
"Large predatory fish such as groupers and sharks are vitally important in marine food webs," Stallings said. "However, predicting the consequence of their loss is difficult because of the complexity of predator-prey interactions. You can't replace a 10-foot shark with a one-foot grouper and expect there to be no effect on reef communities. Shifts in abundance to smaller predators could therefore have surprising and unanticipated effects. One such effect may be the ability of non-native species to invade Caribbean reefs."

A case in point, said Stallings, is the ongoing invasion by Pacific lionfish, which were introduced by aquarium releases.

"Lionfish are minor players on their native Pacific reefs, yet they are undergoing a population explosion and overeating small fishes in the greater Caribbean region," said Mark Hixon of Oregon State University, Stallings' doctoral advisor. "Preliminary evidence suggests that lionfish are less invasive where large predatory native fishes are abundant, such as in marine reserves," Hixon said.

The study also demonstrates the power of volunteer and community research efforts by non-scientists. Stallings used data from the Reef Environmental Education Foundation's online database, which contains fish sightings documented by trained volunteer SCUBA divers, including more than 38,000 surveys spanning a 15-year period.

"Chris was completely undaunted by the lack of fisheries data and essentially adopted the Audubon Christmas Bird Count approach in a marine system to find strong evidence for a native fisheries effect," said Felicia Coleman, director of the Coastal and Marine Laboratory and Stallings' postdoctoral advisor.

Given that about half the world's populations live near coastlines and that the world population is growing, demands for ocean-derived protein will continue to increase, Stallings warned. He said meeting such demands while retaining healthy coral reefs may require multiple strategies, including implementation of marine reserves, finding alternative sources of protein, and increased efforts to implement family-planning strategies in densely populated areas.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 8, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 90

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users 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 week day.

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.


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.


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.


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.


A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

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.

High-speed internet for all
is Obama adminstration goal

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress have set aside more than $7 billion to build broadband Internet networks to bring high speed computer access to every U.S. home. Policy makers say construction of the network and its use will help create jobs in the global digital economy. The goal is to deliver affordable broadband service to people in rural and underserved communities.

"The first thing basically that I do when I get on the Internet is generally I go directly to my e-mail," Mona Hunnicutt explains.

Hunnicutt, 58, spends more than two hours a day on the computer. She and 75-year-old Vivian Leeper are semi-retired and are among a growing number of older Americans who use high speed Internet everyday.

"You're forced more or less to get into using the computer and surfing the web and all to get your information," Leeper said.

They use the Internet at work and at home to download medical information, handle financial matters and keep in touch with family. Studies [by SeniorNet and Charles Schwab] suggest more than 50 million Americans over the age of 50 use the Internet. But many seniors cannot afford $30 - $40 a month for a high speed connection.

"I feel that seniors should be given priority discounts because a lot of seniors are on fixed incomes," Hunnicutt said. "And I think a lot of them really would use the Internet more. But they know that it is expensive."

President Barack Obama and some members of the U.S. Congress want to change that. As part of the economic stimulus, they approved more than $7 billion to launch a program that will deliver affordable broadband or high speed Internet access across the country.

"I stand by my goal of ensuring that every American has broadband access," Mr. Obama said. "No matter where you live, no matter how much money you have or don't have."

Daniel Wilson is executive director for program development for
The National Caucus and Center on Black Aged. The organization works with those who provide broadband connections, such as AT&T and who teach low income African American senior citizens computer skills. He says the key is to make broadband affordable.

Advocates estimate 43 million U.S. households still use slower connections through telephone line. One study [by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] says the country has dropped from fourth in the world to 15th in broadband penetration. And advocates say nationwide access would help not only seniors but anybody who relies on digital technology.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 8, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 90

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Concrete rail ties give off
less emissions, study says

By the American Checmical Society

Wood or concrete? Railroads around the world face that decision as they replace millions of deteriorating cross ties, also known as railway sleepers, those rectangular objects used as a base for railroad tracks.

A new report concludes that emissions of carbon dioxide — one of the main greenhouse gases contributing to global warming — from production of concrete sleepers are up to six times less than emissions associated with timber sleepers.

The study is scheduled for the June 1 issue of Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.

Costa Rican railroad officials just replaced a number of wooden ties on the Heredia-San José line with concrete ones.

In the study, Robert Crawford points out that there have been long-standing concerns about environmental consequences of manufacturing railway sleepers because it involves harvesting large amounts of timber.

Reinforced concrete sleepers are an alternative that offer greater strength, durability and long-term cost savings, he said.

Critics of using concrete sleepers have charged that their manufacture increases greenhouse gas emissions as it involves higher consumption of fuel when compared to production of wood sleepers.

Crawford studied the greenhouse gas emissions of wooden and reinforced concrete sleepers based on one kilometer (0.62 miles) length of track over a 100-year life cycle.

He found that emissions from reinforced concrete sleepers can be from two to six times lower than those from timber.

“The results suggest strongly that reinforced concrete sleepers result in lower life cycle greenhouse emissions than timber sleepers,” the report says.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 8, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 90

pejibaye halved
A.M. Costa Rica photo      
The first step is to half the palm nuts

Editor's favorite soup is easy
and very much Costa Rican

By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

Here's the lowdown on the editor's favorite soup. One serving is about a zillion calories, so Weight Watchers can tune out now.

The beauty of pejibaye soup is that it is easy to make, tastes great and is uniquely Costa Rican. The fruit have been grown here since long before Columbus.

Pejibayes are those palm nuts found in the vegetable sauna at the grocery. They range from orange to green and resemble large, bobbing acorns. When they are hot, they are easier to peel.

Purdue University in Indiana says that one average pejibaye fruit contains 1,096 calories. They are the perfect junk food: low in protein, high in fat.

Of course they're high in fat, they are the product of a palm tree. One palm tree can produce more than 140 pounds of nuts in a year. So they are far from endangered.

The biggest challenge in making pejibaye soup is in forcing yourself not to eat the peeled halves. They make a nice hor d'oeuvre topped with mayonnaise. Another challenge might be in getting someone else to peel and halve the fruit. There is a pit that must be removed. (Hey, Honey, can you give me a hand for a minute . . . . ?)

The soup is a snap. Drip a little oil in a saucepan and make tender chopped onions, garlic and maybe even jalapeños. Then drop in about a dozen pejibaye halves . Or two dozen. It really makes no difference because you can cut the soup with milk or cream to make it the consistency you desire.

Add a cup or two of water and begin breaking up the pejibaye. Or you could run the whole mixture through a blender. Add milk or cream to reach the consistency of soup. Serve hot and season to taste.

A little experimentation will show that the pejibaye mixture is perfect for a sauce over traditional foods. And they say fermented pejibaye will knock your socks off.

green mangos
A.M. Costa Rica photo     
A quick snack of green mango

Time for a sour green fruit
that's loaded with vitamin C

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Among the more underrated offerings of the Costa Rican produce markets is the green mango. Most expats know about ripe mangos and have enjoyed the drippy, juicy fruit with its unique flavor. They may also have used it in blended drinks or as a flavor for ice cream or soda.

Less respected is the green mango. This can be found prepared in the little baggies offered by street vendors. Included in the bag with the strips of mango is a bit of lemon and salt. Nice vendors also will add special ingredients, like chili, upon request.

This is street finger food. The long mango strips are bitter and an acquired taste. And that's about all the average Tico sees of green mangos.

The inhabitants of India and some Asian countries have a 4,000 to 5,000 year head start on using the fruit. Chutney,  the condiment identified with the British Empire and India, has a mango base.

Green mangos can hold their own in any taste test, and the addition of sea salt, chili, chilero or black pepper can cater to the desires of the consumer.

A real treat is a green mango salad. There are an infinite number of recipes. The basic salad contains either grated or strips of mango. From there on in, the choices are many. One version uses baked coconut and various nuts, bean sprouts and basil.

Those who want to add fire to the sour treat can create a mango-jalapeño salad, heavy on lime or lemon and pepper.

The fruit is so accommodating that a chef can hardly go wrong. The salad can become a main course with the addition of chicken or shrimp.

The mango also contains all sorts of healthful compounds, including vitamin C and fiber.

The only downside is the large seed in the middle that sometimes can be a challenge. Freestone versions of the fruit exist, but they are foreign to Costa Rica.

Chinese bottles
A.M. Costa Rica/Arron O'Dell
There's no need to read the bottle. In fact, most of us cannot, despite loosely enforced Costa Rican laws to the contrary that call for labels in Spanish. It's just time for experimentation!

Take the Chinese liquor plunge
and drink that mystery elixir

By Arron O'Dell
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

China is a country known for the Great Wall, temples, big cities, big culture, a billion people and their seeming love to eat anything.  If it grows out of the ground, walks, crawls, slithers, swims, flies or does any combination, the people of China have found a way to kill it, cook it, eat it and enjoy it.  However, the liquor traditions of China seldom come up in conversation.

There are more Chinese than you can shake a stick at around the globe and not one beer that is popular around the world.  This is the sort of thing not to be taken lightly. There must be a good reason for it.   Most Chinese joints here don't even sell an Asian beer and, if they do, it's almost always Thai or Japanese.  You will never here a Chinese expat say something like "Yeah, this Pilsen  is okay but you should try this beer I use to drink back home." 

What the Chinese did bring with them was liquor, high octane, burn-on-the-way-down, glorious liquor.  You haven't seen the stuff at Hipermás, any of the big mercados or your local super, because it is not there.  You cannot find it in any of the places you frequent for your standard shopping needs. 

The only way to track down Chinese liquor is to search out the small shops around town with the Chinese characters on the front.  These shops are here. You can find them.  When you fall into one of these places you hit gold because of the strange and exotic smells.  A good shop will have two or three shelves of bottles in a variety of shapes sizes with red and gold labels and writing that means nothing unless you read Mandarin.
My friend and I have found the best way to pick the best one is by style.  The first bottle we took home was chosen this way and still remains a favorite.  It was a short and fat bottle shaped like an oversize pineapple hand grenade with a colorful label.  When my friend saw it, he said something like 'I've got to have that bottle. It looks cool!'   He was that excited about this new elixir we had found. 

With bottle in hand we quickly made our way to the closest place to home that sold beer and yanked several six packs off the shelf and darted home at a near run.  With two open cans and empty shot glasses in front of us we stared admiring the bottle for a moment.  Then with stupid giddy expressions on our faces we poured. 

After the straight shot, we felt compelled to try it every way we could come up with until there was no more. We sipped it, drank it on ice, with soda, chased it, used it as a chaser for beer.  This tasting was was done very scientifically. 

It was very similar to Jägermeister without the bite on the front, and for 2,000 colons it was a superb deal.  Somewhere around around the bottom of the bottle it occurred to us it might be nice to have a name to put to this wonderful concoction.   We studied every character that  The People's Republic of China felt necessary to put on the ornate paper label on that fine, cheap bottle, and all of it was in some form of Chinese.  

When we inquired of the proprietor of the local Chinese restaurant, he told us that it was  an “export-only” liquor from mainland China. How fortunate for us that they chose to export this fine elixir!

chile relleno
Chile relleno envuelto en huevo: Pepper stuffed with a mixture of rice and meat rolled up in an egg omelette.
scallon omlette
Torta de Huevo con cebollin:
scallion omelette.
Canelones de carne envueltos en huevo. Cannelloni stuffed with a mixture of rice and meat rolled up in an egg omellete
yucca balls
Enyucada de carne: This is a yucca ball stuffed with meat and then fried until crunchy.
Yes, there is good typical food
on the Costa Rican menu

By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When visitors to Costa Rica turn up their nose at the concept of Tico food, its because they have not looked hard enough.

Those who come to San José can find a wide assortment of great typical food at a place like the Central Market or Mercado Central.

At one time this was where most food transactions took place. The building itself is an historic site. The structure is on the Avenida Central pedestrian mall not far west of the Banco de Costa Rica. Tourists and locals alike will find that gallitos, a typical Tico canape or snack, is available here at the several sodas or inside lunch counters.

Around the eating spots, daily commerce takes place. The smell of leather goods, flowers and all kinds of foods and plants fill the air.

Inside, the gallito you can get a chile relleno (a filled pepper), an almuerzito de repollo (cabbage), tortas de huevo con cebollin (a scallion omelette) a barbudos (string bean omelette), a canellone ticos rellenos de carne (pasta stuffed with meat) or an enyucada with beef as well as cheese. The last is meat or cheese wrapped in yucca and deep fried.

There also are empanadas, pastry stuffed with meat, chicken, beans, potatoes with meat and/or cheese, all good food anytime of the day.

The word soda has a unique Costa Rica usage for a luncheon spot or snack bar.  The stands are small with some inside tables surrounded by a counter with stools. As you eat, you can see the food being prepared. The Mercado Central is operated by the municipality, so proper food preparation can be expected.

One well-known place is the Soda San Bosco at the western part of the Mercado Central. It is run by Luis Garcia Campos and his family. They have had the location for at least 30 years. Even though the place is small, it is very popular with locals. Garcia said the reason for the popularity is the freshness of the food, the friendly and quick service and the prices. 

You can drink the juice of different kinds of fruits for 350 colons (62 U.S. cents),  a coffee for 400 colons (71 cents), a gallito of chile relleno, canelloni or barbudos just for 600 colons ($1.06), the gallo de salchichon (sausage) with salad and tortillas for 500 colons (89 cents) as well the similarly priced empanadas, enyucadas and torta de huevo.

Soda San bosco and Luis Garcia Campos
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas  
Luis Garcia Campos at his Soda San Bosco

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The contents of this page and this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007  and 2008 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for details