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(506) 2223-1327          Published Friday, July 15, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 139           E-mail us
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Marimba celebration is a highlight of the weekend
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The marimba, that emblematic Costa Rican musical instrument, takes the center stage this weekend as Santa Bárbara de Santa Cruz puts on its first Expoferia in Guanacaste.

This is one of several events planned for the weekend.

The Santa Bárbara festival begins today with demonstrations in the morning of constructing the traditional instrument. Topics include materials, types of wood and methods to keep the instrument in tune.

There is a parade with cimarronas, the Tico-style band, folk dancing and local foods. At 3 p.m. there is the start of a six-hour series of marimba concerts, which gives way at 9 p.m. for a grand ball with, of course, the Marimba Orquesta Maribel de Santa Bárbara.

The event is being sponsored by a number of organizations, including the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo. Organizers said that 50 percent of the proceeds will go to the Santa Bárbara marimba school to keep the tradition alive.

The marimba, of course, is that double keyboard instrument that grew up in Central America probably with the expertise of African slaves. The instrument has been modernized, and many professionals in orchestras use instruments with man-made materials.

Still, a marimba can be folksy primitive in the style of Colonial instruments. Each key has a resonator affixed below. Traditionally these are of wood, but some native builders use gourds.

The musician usually plays with multiple mallets specially designed for the keys they hit.

Saturday is full of cultural events, another parade. more local food, marimba concerts, a 9 p.m. folkloric concert and music until midnight.

Sunday is more of the same, but organizers hope that visitors also will take some tours to other Guanacaste sites, like the nearby La Casona, horse ranches and the town of  Guaitil where traditional ceramics are produced. Organizers also mentioned the Parque Nacional Palo Verde where there will be games for youngsters and a possible tour of the  Río Tempisque. Ox cart rides also are possible.

More information and a map is on a Web page.

From the Central Valley the town is best reached via the Puente la Amistad

Franz Liszt

For those staying in the Central Valley, the Teatro

marimba keybord
Closeup view of marimba keyboard
marimba guys
This photo comes from 'The Capitals of Spanish America,' an  1888 book by William Eleroy Curtis. It probably is a Costa Rican street scene.

Nacional and the Librería Francesa  are presenting a tribute concert to Franz Liszt at 5 p.m.  Saturday. Jacques Sagot is the pianist who will play a number of pieces composed by the Hungarian artist. The concert is in the foyer of the theater. Admission is 2,000 colons or about $4. Seniors with a gold card get in for half price. This year is the bicentennial of Liszt's birth. Although Hungarian, he lived for many years in Paris.

Guanacaste artists

Also in Guanacaste, The Hidden Garden Art Gallery opens a show featuring the work of a number of local artists. Works range from oil on canvas to photos and sculpture. The exhibit opens Saturday at 10 a.m. The gallery is  5 kilometers west of Liberia International Airport.

One-man show: Van Gogh

The Little Theatre Group plans an unusual one-man show starting tonight and running through a Sunday matinee.

"Joseph Kaknes, an accomplished actor, painter and performance artist, is presenting a unique and fascinating spectacle: He impersonates Van Gogh, the brilliant yet unfortunate 19th century painter," said a Little Theatre announcement.. "Kaknes narrates the life story of the Dutch artist at the same time as he is creating a replica of one of the master’s works."

The curtain tonight and Saturday is at 7:30 p.m. Sunday the matinee is at 2:30 p.m. The location is Teatro Laurence Olivier next to Sala Garbo on Avenida 8 at Calle 26. The English-speaking theater group maintains a Web site for reservations.

Firefighter olympics

Three teams from the Cuerpo de Bomberos will compete Saturday against at least 18 other teams, mostly from private companies, to see who is the country's best.

The event is at Pima Cenada in Barreal de Heredia, starting at 8 a.m. Admission is free. 

Participants in this, the Torneo de Brigadas 2011, will race against time in a obstacle course with an emphasis on firefighters' skills and good practices, the bomberos said in an announcement.

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Weather institute warns
of high seas, wind, rain

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The weekend is expected to be a wet one, thanks to a low pressure system parked over the country. And a small boat warning is out for both coasts.

The rain and high seas are expected to continue through Sunday, said the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

The weather service said Thursday that land on both coasts is likely to be flooded by the high seas and that boat owners probably should consider moving their vessels into protected harbors. Both Puntarenas Centro and Limón Centro usually see some flooding during high seas.

The weather institute predicted the highest seas in the South Pacific but said that small craft less than 21 feet should remained tied up all over the Pacific. The institute also predicted high winds of up to 40 kph or about 25 mph.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said there was a low probability that the weather system would develop into anything stronger in the next two days.

The weather institute here is predicting heavy rains and thunderstorms in nearly the entire country in the afternoons. The Caribbean coast might only see moderate rains.

Some rivers already are rising, due to Thursday's rain, the weather institute said. Consequently there is a danger of flooding inland and landslides.

Work on temporary bridge
at Sixaola starts in October

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican and Panamá highway officials finally have a timetable for putting a temporary bridge over the Río Sixaola at the national border.

The work is supposed to start in October with the bridge completed by December. This is a $3.2 million job. The bridge will be 245 meters (804 feet) and 15 meters (49 feet)  higher than the existing bridge that is in bad shape.

Officials from both countries met Thursday to plan the project.

The idea of a joint operation between the two nations to replace the ancient bridge had been announced. But the project has been reduced from two bridges to one one-lane bridge. Costa Rica was supposed to provide a temporary bridge and Panamá was to do the same. Now both nations will share the job of building the pillars for the temporary bridge, which will be a bailey type that bolts together.

A permanent bridge is estimated to cost about $20 million.

Costa Rica is out of bailey bridges because several were used during the last rainy season. However, more are on order, officials said.

Replacing the existing bridge is seen as a boon for tourism and commerce.

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 15, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 139

Prisma Dental

Police getting ready for annual flood of pilgrims to Cartago
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Only two weeks remain before Costa Ricans head for the  Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles in Cartago, and police officials are getting ready.

The Fuerza Pública said Thursday that more than 1,000 officers will be involved in safeguarding pilgrims.

More than a million persons make the pilgrimage, and capabilities of all police and rescue agencies are strained. Aug. 2 is Tuesday this year. That means the majority of the faithful will be walking Sunday and Monday,

The idea is to be in the plaza of the basilica the morning of Aug. 2, which also happens to be a legal holiday in Costa Rica.

Police contingents will be swinging into high gear Saturday, July 30, but some pilgrims from distant areas begin their walk earlier. Some walk from nearby countries.

This is the 376th anniversary of the finding of the small, black carved rock that is venerated as a representation of the
Blessed Virgin. Most pilgrims carry in their hearts a special wish for which they seek the Virgin to intercede with her son, Jesus.

The security ministry will be setting up a command post along one side of the basilica. There will be at least 20 mounted officers, most in the vicinity of the church. There also will be air patrols, weather permitting.

For someone who has not seen the pilgrimage, it is hard to envision a million or more persons on foot filling up the nation's roads. For many this is as much an entertainment or a way to spend time alone with that special someone.

Police encourage pilgrims to walk in groups for safety. Every year there is petty theft and some violence, but much less than would be expected in such a mass movement.

Aug. 2 is marked by a Roman Catholic Mass and speeches. Politicians attend, and President Laura Chinchilla, a devote Catholic, most certainly will be there.

The bishops who speak usually berate the politicians for not doing enough for the poor.

Chinese don't want conquests, they just want customers
 First they built a Coliseum, now the circus has come to town.  A Chinese circus.  It worked with the Romans.  The circus is not taking place in the new stadium. It is located on Sabana Sur across the street from the park. Who doesn’t like a circus?  I wonder what they will bring next.

Pretty smart, the Chinese.  They know that seduction is better than force.  They are seducing the countries of Latin America and Africa with their gifts and their constructions that will create jobs.  As someone said, the Chinese don’t want to conquer the people of other countries they want to turn them into customers, and they want access to their energy sources.  They don’t want to have to spend money on rebuilding something they have destroyed.    They don’t even seem interested in proselytizing communism.

 The Chinese are becoming rich because there they have customers for the products they make and create.  Businesses do not grow just because they have money. They grow because there is a demand for their goods.  They don't  hire people to work unless they have work for them to do, unless they have customers for their product. You can’t sell products to poor people. It makes sense to start with making customers (or consumers) for your products. 

The Chinese government is hiring people to build high speed trains and its infrastructure, producing solar panels among other things.  As a matter of fact, soon China will not depend so much upon foreign consumers because it won’t be long before the majority of people of China won’t be called proletariats but will be working consumers themselves.

Perhaps I have commented before, that in the United States (and maybe elsewhere) people are overworked and underemployed. While in Costa Rica, people are overemployed and underworked. The U.S. situation makes for a working force of exhausted and stressed out people with little free time for pleasure or shopping, and a growing population of angry, even homeless, unemployed who cannot buy even what they need.

The Costa Rican system sometimes means inefficient and unknowledgeable employees who have too much time to socialize on the job, but it also means a more contented population and more people with some money and more time and energy to take classes to further themselves or go to concerts and other cultural events that are pleasurable and educational.
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

The secret is in the word employee.  Being an employee means not only working for a wage and able to be a customer, it means getting up every morning with a purpose, dressing and going to a place where, if not everyone, somebody knows your name.  It means joining friends at lunch hour and time to window shop and see the new products available, knowing you might be able to buy something.  And it means feeling useful and productive. 

All of these things make people feel good about themselves.  The result is social prosperity for the many instead of material prosperity for the few.  It will be interesting to see in what direction China goes.

Speaking of cultural events, it is not just the circus that will be in town this weekend, there is the DaVinci exhibition and tour at the Aduana Arts and Technology Center in Barrio La California. 

DaVinci is a great example of someone who worked at what he loved and was an artist in several media as well as an inventor and even more.  A guided tour will help you see his genius.  The exhibition lasts until Aug. 13.

Van Gogh, my favorite painter will be at the Teatro Laurence Olivier this weekend, in the person of Joseph Kaknes, an actor, painter and performance artist who impersonates Van Gogh and talks about his life as he paints!  You can make reservations at or call 8858-1446.

Next weekend there will be a repeat performance of “Such Things as Dreams are Made of,” (You gotta have a dream.) written, in most cases, by the actors and directed by actor/director Annette Hallett.  You can make reservations for that at the same time.

Prices for all of the events are reasonable, and fortunately, most of us who are in city area have both the time and money to enjoy such things.

Del Rey accommodations

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 15, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 139

CR Home

Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias photo
This is the upper part of the Río Guacalito near the Volcán Miravalle where a slide took place Tuesday.

So far, so good with river being clear of debris from slides

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When someone refers to Costa Rica as being a work in progress, they may have taken a trip into the volcanic central mountains.

There slopes can approach 90 degrees, and strange events take place there that have effects down at the base of the mountains.

When a series of earthquakes took place Tuesday between Upala and Liberia in the central mountains, there were a lot of concerns.

First, some feared that the volcanoes were awakening. Others thought that landslides might create temporary dams that would back up water and then release it with disastrous results.

Of particular concern was the  Río Guacalito, which runs along the slopes of the Volcán Miravalle.
An inspection by air showed that there had been slides, but that the river did not become blocked.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias is setting up community meetings to discuss the aftermath of the earthquake and to dispel any rumors, it said.

Some 147 persons are staying with family members because their homes suffered some form of damage. The Colegio de Ingenieros y Arquitectos as well as emergency commission experts will conduct surveys of some 28 damaged homes to see if they can be repaired. Foundations have cracked as well as walls, and the land under some homes has shifted.

There also are three bridges with some form of damage, and roadways with cracks and other problems.

Because of rainy conditions, the commission is keeping an eye on the mountains to be aware of any slides. The rugged terrain is vulnerable.

Four-year project sheds light on origins of irregular verbs

By the Oxford University Press news staff

An historical study of the development of irregular verbs in the hundreds of Romance languages including French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian and Catalan has revealed how these structures survive. Experts have also examined why they are learned by successive generations despite making no sense or, apparently, having any function in the language.

Oxford University has published an online database displaying the irregularities of the verb systems of 80 Romance languages and dialects, those that developed from Latin, to highlight the research.

The database is useful to specialists and others with an interest in Romance languages.

Martin Maiden of Oxford University's Faculty of Linguistics Philology & Phonetics and the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages led the four-year study which was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

"Many people will remember groaning at school when faced with irregular French or Spanish verbs and wondering why they were the way they were," he said. "Our work helps to explain why they, and their equivalents in many related languages, not only exist but are even reinforced and replicated over time.’

There is usually a good historical reason why irregularities appear in a language, Maiden adds, but often the original causes disappear, leaving behind apparently inexplicable irregularities.
Quite often, subsequent generations of speakers simply eliminate these irregularities. "But what we have found is that an alternative strategy is to keep the irregularity yet seek to make its occurrence and distribution as predictable as possible, through spreading and various kinds of reinforcement of the irregular pattern," the professor said.

Some forms of the French verb mourir ("to die") have the spelling eu rather than ou (for example je meurs – "I die" - against nous mourons – "we die.") This difference is due to sound changes at an earlier stage of the language, but the pattern of irregularity created by these changes then provides a template into which other kinds of irregularity, which cannot be explained by sound change, are attracted.

The irregular forms of the verb aller ("to go," for example je vais – "I go" - against nous allons - "we go") can be shown to have followed this pattern.

Maiden believes that the Romance languages provide an extraordinarily rich and detailed field for the study of how and why language changes.

"Our research has opened up numerous new avenues of investigation, which we are already actively pursuing, and has shown that many Romance varieties too often neglected in mainstream Romance linguistics (such as Romanian or the French spoken on the Atlantic coast of Canada) have fascinating properties which we want to explore further," he said.

Maiden and others are now working on a book detailing the research findings and their significance. "The Romance Verb: Autonomous Morphology in Paradigm Change" is due to be published next year by Oxford University. 

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 15, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 139

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Measles makes comeback
despite available vaccines

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Once nearly eradicated in many countries, measles may become a threat once again.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 33 countries have seen an increase in the number of cases. Researchers argue that efforts to completely eradicate measles are facing an uphill battle, due to lack of financial support and political will.

Just when health experts thought they were close to eradicating measles worldwide, major outbreaks are showing up in several countries: in Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. And not only in low-income countries.  Even France has seen one of the largest outbreaks, despite readily-available vaccines and a good health infrastructure.

Andrea Gay at Measles Initiative, an international partnership for measles eradication, says developed countries and the developing world both face problems containing the infection.

"Most of the time in developing countries when children are not vaccinated, it's because they don't have access to the vaccines.  But in developed countries there is access. It's more a question of not choosing to use that access," Ms. Gay noted.

Ms. Gay adds that pediatricians have to be more alert and governments have to become more proactive in containing measles outbreaks.

It is children who are the most vulnerable to this highly contagious respiratory infection, which can lead to such complication as blindness and swelling of the brain and can even prove fatal in extreme cases.  Measles kills 450 children every day, experts said.

The United Nations has been fighting measles for years.  And its goal of reducing deaths from the disease was achieved to a large extent almost three years ago.

"At the end of 2008, every country in the world had achieved that goal of 90 percent or more measles mortality reduction except India, but because India is such a large country and accounts for large number of measles deaths  their numbers brought down the overall numbers," Ms. Gay explained.

But experts say it is important to eliminate measles from all parts of the world.  Otherwise it will continue to circulate back from regions where it still exists.

Ms. Gay says it only costs about $1 per child to vaccinate against measles.  The stumbling block, she says, is the lack of political commitment in many countries

"Because as measles has become less prevalent, and people don't see the disease, but they see many other diseases they tend to focus on those things that they see forgetting that if you don't have vaccination you will begin to see measles again," Ms. Gay said.

According to Measles Initiative, it will take approximately $212 million between 2012 and 2015 in order to eradicate measles by 2020.

Chávez appears at rally
and promises to fight cancer

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has appeared at a rally in Caracas, telling supporters that his battle against cancer is one of the biggest fights of his life.

President Chávez wore his army uniform and red beret to the event where he discussed his struggle with the disease. He raised the nation's flag over Plaza Bolivar, the square where the rally was held.

The crowd shouted: "Onward, commander!" in support of the president, who underwent surgery last month in Cuba to remove a tumor from his pelvic region. Chávez has not said what kind of cancer he is battling. U.S. intelligence sources said that his situation is very serious.

Wednesday, Chávez announced that he may undergo chemotherapy or radiation in a future stage of his treatment. He said he has lost weight and is adopting a healthier lifestyle.

President Chávez, known for his hours-long speeches, has also curtailed some activities since his surgery. He said he has learned to delegate tasks to others.

Chávez returned to Venezuela from Cuba on July 4. He has assured Venezuelans that he intends to remain in control of the country, which is South America's biggest oil producer.

The 56-year-old president, an outspoken critic of the United States, took office in 1999.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 15, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 139

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Telecom agency instructs
officials on cell towers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones held a meeting Thursday for municipal officials to instruct them on the regulations for granting permits for erecting cell telephone towers.

Two companies, Claro (América Móvil) and Telefónica (Azules y Platas S.A.), have won concessions to offer cell telephone services, but they have to construct their own towers.

As A.M. Costa Rica reported June 2 tower construction is generating a backlash, mostly from residents who think their property values will be reduced or those who fear the electromagnetic emissions.

Residents in Tárcoles and Tamarindo are organizing to fight the towers.

The meeting Thursday was to help those municipalities that do not have regulations in place for tower construction.

Murder of 15 year old
appears to spark suicide

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A tragic love story ended in a murder and suicide Thursday.

The murder victim was a 15 year old Coronado girl who was seven months pregnant. She was identified by the last name of Rodríguez by the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Agents still do not know the reason why the girl was shot in the throat. The immediate suspicion fell on the man in his late 20s who has been the companion of the girl for a year and a half.

The girl died shortly after reaching Hospital Calderón Guardia.

The shooting took place in San Antonio de Coronado about 1 a.m., agents said. A search was begun for the man, but a jogger came upon his body along Ruta 32 later Thursday morning. The man was shot once in the head, and the jogger said that he had a pistol in his hand. The dead man is believed to have been a security guard.

Downtown bandits hit
Avenida Central store

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Despite a strong police presence, the downtown bandits are at it again.

Judicial agents said that three men with guns entered a store on Avenida Central at 2 p.m. Wednesday and held up the clerk and the only customer there.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said the men got 1 million colons, about $2,000.

Fuerza Pública officers have been deployed specifically to halt these daylight store robberies that have been going on for at least four months. San José also has its municipal police force that regularly patrol Avenida Central, the main street of the downtown shopping district.

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