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These stories were published Monday, July 4, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 130
Jo Stuart
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U.S. turnout for July 4 lower than expected
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An Independence Day party for U.S. citizens only attracted a moderate turnout Saturday, leaving sponsor and observers wondering why. Speculation ranged from the effects of the Villalobos financial disaster and of international politics.

Susan Tessem didn't think fewer people came Saturday. She is a 25-year resident and a member of the American Colony Committee that puts on the event. She said the impression of fewer people came because Cerverceria Costa Rica officials had cut down trees giving the picnic grounds west of San José a more open look.

Photos of the Saturday event BELOW!

However, some of the volunteers working the gate estimated the crowd at from 1,500 to 3,000, significantly lower than the 5,000 from other years.

Politics was not a hot topic, although both major U.S. political parties had booths. Some suggested that the lower attendance was a protest against U.S. activities in Afghanistan and Iraq. Any protests did not extend to U.S. Marines who raised the U.S. flag and then spent the afternoon posing with children and  young women for personal photographs.

The Villalobos Brothers offices in Mall San Pedro were raided three years from today, and there is a steady exodus from creditors who lost funds in the high-interest scheme. Most have been able to hang on expecting
some kind of resolution of the mess, but lately the number of people returning to the States and Canada have accelerated.

Others were heard to say that they preferred something to eat in addition to the hot dogs provided at the event. Also available was beer, soda and other soft drinks and ice cream.

Some youngsters said

Want a flag?
they preferred more modern music other than the University of Costa Rica concert band.

There was a clear indication of reduction in numbers. Each year, someone dressed as Uncle Sam hits the crowds and gives away small U.S., flags. Usually this person is mobbed. However, this year, Uncle Sam wandered around the concrete pavilion trying unsuccessfully to give away flags.

Some U.S. citizens with Costa Rican friends boycotted the event because Costa Ricans are not welcome. According to the handouts, each partygoer had to have a U.S. passport or be an immediate family member of a U.S. citizen.  This rule was interpreted in many different ways by security volunteers.
The Central Valley event now has competition. A July 4 party was held in Guanacaste Sunday, and this attracted U.S. citizens from that area.

Canadians have a day to celebrate too
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Canada Day, a celebration of that nation's birth July 1, came to Costa Rica a bit late this year.

Sunday Canadians and friends gathered at the Pedregal complex near Santa Ana to eat pancakes and pork roast, watch performers from all over Costa Rica, and raise money for local community and educational programs.  Ticket-takers estimated that about 400 people showed up.   

Unlike its United States counterpart, the Canada Day celebration here in Costa Rica is open to anyone.  But also unlike the July 4 celebration the day before, festival-goers forked over 2,500 colones to enter.  Children under 12 paid 500 colones.   

Fred Boden, vice president of the Canadian Association of Costa Rica, said that last year, the same event yielded – with the help of the Canadian embassy – $48,000 to be donated to schools and communities throughout Costa Rica.  The money will be distributed in much the same way this year, he added. 
 The performers were all members of communities that had received money from the same event in years past.  There were 

A.M. Costa Rica/Jesse Froehling
Canadians turned out for charity

rock bands, dancers, and a mime with a whistle among others. 

Canada Day started when Governor General Lord Monck signed a proclamation June 20, 1868, that declared July 1 to be the day in which the people of the British North American provinces would be called to celebrate the nation's anniversary.  However, that was the last organized celebration for 50 years.  In 1927, the government started a formal celebration under the name Dominion Day.  On October 27, 1982, the name of the celebration was changed to Canada Day. 

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 4, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 130

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The secret to happiness:
Just catch a duende

The following reader submission came in after our article last week about storytellers discussing mystical beings in Costa Rica.

By Kayo Lesser
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

We all have been curious as to why the Ticos smile and seem to be so content. Well, now I know why, and it is truly an amazing and fascinating discovery.

Want to have the happiness and contentment of a lifetime? Simple, just catch a duende.

During the rainy season just before nightfall, place a tiny little thimble full of honey on your roof. Ticos have been doing this very discretely for many, many years. Mind you, while honey works very well in the Central Valley, this is not the case elsewhere.

On the  Pacific side a little chocolate works great.  On the Caribbean side a mixture of coconut and marshmallows is used.

After the offering has been placed, just sit there and look off to the side, if you look directly at your roof you will see nothing.

Duendes are teeny little men. They have little yellow hats, green shirts with huge black buttons, bright red pants and black metal booties. They dance all night in the rain, using tiny baseball bats to hit each individual raindrop back up into the sky.

At first the raindrops fall quickly back to earth, usually the next evening. Understandable, since the little men have had five or six months off with nothing to do. Eventually they are back in top condition and have enough strength to hit the raindrops up so high it takes them months to return, this usually happens around the end of December.

The flashes of light you often see at night over the horizon are nothing more than one group trying to intimidate the other. Sometimes they do go to war, when they do you will know it. These are the nights the lightning is the brightest and the thunder is the loudest, cracking and exploding right outside your door. The wars are not long. They are usually over before the night has ended. Never are there any casualties, and  the following day is relatively calm and pleasant.

Now immediately after swinging, using all his might and power to drive a raindrop up into the night sky, each little duende dances a little jig and does a somersault. That’s when you make your move, at that exact moment. You have to catch him in midair, and when you do, man-o-man will you know it — ”WOW”
I only wish I could experience again, what you are about to experience, if you do as I’ve said.

If you choose not to believe, that’s fine. I won’t get mad or upset, I can't.  I  caught mine years ago.
* Mr. Lesser is from San Ramon de Tres Rios.

Chorotega ceramics
celebrated in festival

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A festival of Chorotega ceramics celebrating a 4,000 year tradition is under way in San Vicente de Nicoya.  This is the first festival, and it will run until Saturday.

San Vicente is where a number of shops turn out pre-Columbian replicas and it also is the location for the new ECO Museo de la Cerámica Chorotega, which is scheduled to open in September.

The Chorotega Indian tribe was a trading partner with the Mayan civilizations that developed further north in what is today Central America. San Vicente and Guaitil have rediscovered the traditions of the past and have become known on the world art scene for their replicas of the ancient pottery in the Mayan style.  

Two quakes rattle
much of country

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two strong earthquakes took place Friday night off the Nicaraguan Pacific coast. The jolts were felt in most of Costa Rica.

The first at 8:16 p.m. was of a 6.7 magnitude.  Then at  10:11 p.m. a 5.9 quake was detected.

The first was located at about 70 kms. (40 miles) west southwest of Rivas, Nicaragua. The second was 80 kms. (50 miles) west southwest of Rivas, according to the U.S. National Earthquake Information Center.

Despite the intensities, there were no reports of serious damage.

Re-election proposal
called flawed in Colombia

By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — The nation's inspector general is recommending that the constitutional court reject legislation that would allow President Alvaro Uribe to run for re-election next year.

Inspector General Edgardo Maya's office made the recommendation Friday, citing procedural irregularities in the bill's passage through Congress last year. The constitutional court has about three months to rule on the measure.

Uribe took office in August of 2002. He serves only one four-year term under current Colombian law.

Colombian woman
wins golf tournament

By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

GLADSTONE, N.J. — Colombian golfer Marisa Baena has captured the inaugural Women's World Match Play title by holding off South Korean rookie Meena Lee here Sunday.

Ms. Baena takes the one-half million dollar first prize. She made a confident showing at the start when she won the first hole. From there Meena Lee was always playing catch-up. Wins on holes 11 and 13 were crucial, as Baena moved into a commanding position.

Lee came back one more time and cut the deficit. The match went to the 18th hole. But Baena's luck held and she won a half-million dollars after winning just $30,000 last year.

"I played such good golf. I was able to hang in there when I was not doing well. I won and that is what we play golf for. I think I have always played golf to win. I was not able to do it. But finally I did it," Ms. Baena said.

Zapatistas planning
tour to gain support

By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

Mexico's armed Zapatista rebels say they plan to take another step towards entering national politics with a nationwide tour to drum up support before next year's elections.

In a statement Thursday, Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos said a delegation of members will travel around the country to meet with other leftist organizations in an effort to broaden the group's appeal.

He says the group wants to build a new form of leftist politics and push for a new constitution.
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The party today
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Party tonight with classic rock & cheap beer
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Road House Bar

1 km. past the exit to San Isidro.
beside the restaurant called Asado del Gaucho

The pig gets the blame when people act in a bad way
Hacerse el chancho

“To make one’s self into a pig.” Now, this doesn’t sound very nice, but don’t go jumping to conclusions. It’s not quite the same as the expression “to make a pig of one’s self” in English. First, let’s start with the word chancho. This is pure Costa Rican dialect. The word for “pig” in standard Spanish is cerdo. But we in Costa Rica say chancho, and the meaning is the same. But this dicho has more to do with not paying attention than with the sin of gluttony. It’s applicable whenever you’re talking to someone about something and the rude chancho just goes right on with whatever he’s doing without even acknowledging your presence.

We also say se hace el Ruso or he/she acts like a Russian, meaning they act like they don’t understand Spanish, when we’re talking to someone who refuses to pay attention to us. In Spain there is a similar expression: se hace el sueco, meaning she/he acts like a Swede.

Though it’s quite rude behavior, those who hacerse el chancho can use it as a tactic for pretending they didn’t understand what was being said and are therefore not responsible for any outcome from the conversation.

Chancho then, at least in this context, essentially means “rude” or ill-mannered.  This meaning of “pig” is also understood in English when we say that someone’s behavior was like a pig’s as in; “How can he act like such a pig?!”

Another way of using chancho is in reference to work or service. For example, if a plumber comes to your home to fix a broken pipe and does a very sloppy, unsatisfactory job of it, you might comment; No me gusta ese trabajo, está muy chancho. It might not be such a good idea to refer to the plumber himself as a chancho unless he’s a good bit smaller than you are and is not in possession of his monkey wrench at the time. Calling someone a chancho to their face is a most offensive insult.

 Likewise we might say: “Mary’s husband is a big chancho because his table manners are atrocious.” Or: “Mary’s husband is a big chancho because he’s having an affair with a little puta he picked up down in San José, and Mary doesn’t even have a clue.” The act or the “bad thing” being done by the chancho is called the chanchada. So, we might say, for example: ¡Que chanchada le hizo Roberto a Maria! Se fué a Jacó con la babysitter! (What a pig that Roberto was to Mary! He ran off to Jacó with the babysitter.)
Another useful colloquialism rooted (no pun intended) in chancho is chanchullo. One must cometer or commit a chanchullo. This happens when a person is not fair or is trying to cheat someone else. For example, if you get overcharged at the store, then the clerk has made chanchullo to you. This is what dishonest people do, they commit chanchullos.

As you might expect, all this reminds me of a story:  In the late 1930s, a cousin of my father, by the name of Carlos, worked as a poll inspector. At election time he would be sent to different places around the country to make sure the election was fair and honest. During the  election of 1940 he was sent to Baja Talamanca. Back then there was no road over which to make the journey  by car, so he had to
way we say it

By Daniel Soto

travel first on horseback, then by boat, and finally on foot.

In order to arrive in Baja Talamanca in time for the election he had to leave a full week in advance. But there were those among the “political establishment” in this tiny backwater who did not particularly relish the idea of some outsider meddling in their affairs, upsetting the cozy little fiefdom they’d set up for themselves beyond the watchful eye of election officials in San José. So, they sent out their henchmen to stop him.

First they sank the boat he was to use. Then they paid a guide to take him far out of the way in an attempt to delay his arrival until the election was over. Nevertheless, he arrived in time for the election knowing full well that he was unwelcome. He set up his post at the polling place asking each voter for his name and checking it against the official registration records (notice I say he asked each voter “his” name, because women did not receive the vote in Costa Rica until 1948).

During the course of that election day, back in 1940, a very odd thing began to happen. Carlos started recognizing some of the faces that were presenting themselves to vote, even though they used different names. So he questioned one indigenous man: “Didn’t I see you here voting this morning?” But the man replied no, that that was his brother. A few hours later, however, the same man appeared ready to vote yet again. “No,” he replied when challenged by Carlos, “that was not me that was my cousin.”

It seemed to Carlos also that every time this man showed up to vote he was a little bit drunker. Well, clearly there was some kind of hanky-panky going on, because by the end of the day both parties ended up with the same number of votes. So, Carlos called together the illustrious political leaders of the community and told them: “O.K. This is how we’re going to call this election; the one party wins the local election and the other party wins the national election. That way all of you will win something and my time here will not have been wasted.” Everybody was satisfied with this arrangement. So they had a big party and, the next day, showed Carlos a way to get to Limón in only one day, and from there he could take the train to San José.

So in the end it could be said that Carlos caught them pulling a chanchullo. But, in the end, he himself acted like a chancho, and together they made a big chanchada out of the election. It was just this kind of electoral chanchada, or corruption, that would hasten the civil war of 1948 and bring about the reforms of the Second Republic in Costa Rica.

Robbers hold family in Tibás hostage for three and a half hours
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three men forced their way into a Tibás home late Saturday with the intention of robbing the family that lived there.

Instead, one of the victims notified police who quickly surrounded the home. What followed was three and a half hours of hostage negotiations until the three suspects surrendered.

The suspects, who walked from the house with their hands held high about 3:30 a.m. Sunday were identified by the last names and ages of Boza Rodríguez, 25, Santamaría Barquero, 21, and Carvajal Araya, 17.

The victims who were held hostage were Marina Obando López, 51, Roberto Obando López, Cecilia Obando López, Gabriela Silva Obando, 18, Rebeca
Silva Obando, 20, Marcela Silva Obando, 24, José Alberto Rocha Villalobos and Wilmer Carballo Bejarano, 19. Fuerza Pública officers said one of the hostages was a senior citizen and two were minors. Two of the women are pregnant, they said.

When police began to encircle the house, the hostage-takers turned off the lights. Eventually they began to negotiate by telephone, and about 2:30 a.m. They exchanged the two pregnant women for several packages of cigarettes.

The robbers had hopes of taking one or more hostages with them as they fled in a family automobile, but police did not give in on this point.

A fourth robber may have been involved and may have fled as police arrived. The robbers were seeking some $18,000 they had heard was inside the house. They broke in through a window, police said.

July 4 comes
a bit early

Uncle Sam can be somewhat scary

Old Glory begins the ascent

U.S. citizens and families, mostly from the Central Valley, had their July 4 celebration early this year. The event was Saturday.

The Independence Day party attracted a significantly smaller crowd this year, in part because of the Saturday date. However, fans, like Stan Burch (above), 
who portrayed Uncle Sam on stilts, came all the way from his home in Golfito.

The weather cooperated. Skies were a rich blue with just a few puffy clouds all morning. The event was west of San José on the Cerverceria Costa Rica picnic grounds.

Sometimes you catch a water balloon and sometimes you don't! Splash!

Photos by Jay Brodell
and Jesse Froehling
of the 
A.M. Costa Rica staff

Photogenic Marines

How Gringo can you get?
Kids and carnival rides!

Free beer, soda, coffee and hot dogs are major attractions for the July 4th party every year. But it also is a day for kids.

Jo Stuart
About us
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