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(506) 2223-1327        San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 21, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 143       E-mail us
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Second of two parts
Child's first pimp might be Mom

By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Costa Rican girls — and boys — get into prostitution for a variety of reasons in Costa Rica.  Most of the reasons have to do with family economics.  Some households that cannot make ends meet push their kids into selling themselves.

In the campo, the countryside, some mothers tell their sub-teen girls to go hang out around the local bar to sell themselves to the patrons.  The girls take their earnings home so the family can survive.  In other cases, the mothers of these kids are just money hungry.  The easiest way for them to make money is to pressure their children into prostitution. 

Rufianería is the term used in law to describe this activity of pressuring someone — of either sex — into prostitution and living off those earnings.  It is a voracious kind of pimping.  It is more common in Costa Rica than most people believe.

Information for this article has been gained from a series of interviews with prostitutes who volunteered their life stories.

The young never have a chance to improve themselves.  Prostitution is all they know from a very young age.  As soon as they are older and they can fend for themselves, the family sends them off to San José or to one of the tourist areas in the country like Coco, Jacó, or Quepos.

In other cases, friends coax other friends into prostitution.   They tell them about their lives in the big city where they can meet foreigners and make lots of money.   Some of the young adults send some money home to support their families. Others get into drugs and pornography.

Prostitution is not on trial here.  The vicious cycle is.   The cycle that begins with mothers — and in some cases fathers — pushing their kids into prostitution to pay bills or worst yet, to pay for their vices.  The police in Parque Morazán have seen fathers dropping their underage daughters off for work in the evening.   The work the youngsters are given is to sell themselves as prostitutes to those in cars driving by the park or to the foreigners walking the streets.

Costa Rican law gives every adult the right to sell sex because prostitution is not illegal in this country. 

The point is the children never become adults to decide if they want to sell sex.  They are usually selling it way before they ever become adults because someone else pushes them into it.  Once the cycle begins, it is almost impossible to stop.   Young girls do not even finish sixth grade in school.  With no education, they are doomed for the rest of their lives to prostitution.  Usually, they have a multitude of children.  It is common to meet a middle-aged prostitute with four, five or more kids.

What happens when the prostitutes are not young or cute anymore and they cannot sell themselves as readily as they once did?  How do they feed all those mouths?  Well, they end up on drugs or selling drugs to others.  The children get no education and end up in prostitution, too.  The boys usually end up in gangs and turn to a life of crime.

Many foreigners do not care where prostitutes come from in Costa Rica.  They do not care about the social-economic problems that drive the young into such activity.  They just want an ample supply when they come here for their sex vacations.  Costa Rica’s lackadaisical attitude about pimping prostitutes contributes to the countries worldwide reputation as a sex tourism destination. 
working woman

Costa Rica’s position on prostitution and pimping has put the country on the United States’ tier 2 watch list for human trafficking because women and children are trafficked in and out of the country for commercial sexual exploitation.

The country has become a mecca for foreign prostitutes because of Costa Rica's sex tourism industry.

Most foreigners believe sex is a regulated business here.  They believe the government controls prostitution and prostitutes run around with government-issued identification cards to prove they are free of disease.  This is not true at all.  Some of the major hotels that cater to hookers to increase their casino and bar businesses request identification but only to prove the person is an adult, nothing more.  They do not request a health certificate. 

The country may be on the verge of waking up.  Sunday’s front-page headline in the country’s largest local newspaper is “Prostitutes work in massage parlors with business licenses.”   The story was similar to that published here two weeks ago. These massage parlors are nothing more than businesses pimping the available prostitutes.  The girls in these places usually work there and let themselves be pimped because they have a reason not to go to a local bar or hotel.  They also like the mostly daytime hours.

Here are some other reasons: 1.) They are older or have lost their looks. 2.) They are pregnant. 3.) They are married or are involved in a serious relationship. 4.) they are in school or the university, or 5.) they are in Costa Rica illegally.  Many of the girls in these places are from Nicaragua. 

Curiously, pimping is illegal in Costa Rica but these establishments have business licenses, usually as a pension or rooming house.  Everyone in the government and all the judicial authorities know and have known pimping goes on in these places.  Everyone knows pimping is rampant in Costa Rica.   It seems the country is exploiting its young and taking advantage of its disadvantaged for profit. 

What is troubling is this attitude — sacrificing scruples for profit — goes beyond prostitution and pimping and exists deep inside the court system and politics as well.

Garland M. Baker is a 36-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2004-2008, use without permission prohibited.

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Search continues for man
whose truck slid into river

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rescue workers searched all day Sunday for a man whose truck slid into the Río Tíbas during a landslide the previous evening, said a Cruz Roja spokesman.

At about 6 p.m Saturday a landslide swept two vehicles off the road near Barrio Socorro in Santo Domingo de Heredia, said Cruz Roja spokesman Carlos Bolanes. After working for three hours Cruz Roja rescue teams were able to rescue one man, said Bolanes. The man, the driver of a car, was treated and sent to his Montes de Oca home,

Rescue workers labored until 1 a.m. searching the river and began again at 5 a.m. Sunday morning with no results all day, said Bolanes.

Three held after police
find fake uniforms, gear

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Hours after the murder of a truck driver in Quepos, police officers in Esparza arrested three men they suspect were dressing up as fake police officers and committing various crimes, said a spokesman.

In the early hours of Sunday, Fuerza Pública officers pulled over a Toyota and arrested three suspects outside of a bar in downtown Esparza, said a security spokesman. The officers seized firearms, ski masks, handcuffs, and fake police uniforms from the vehicle, said the spokesman.

They also found a fake license plate which looked like an official plate from the Judicial Investigation Organization

Saturday police discovered the body of a semi-truck driver in Marítima plantation in Quepos. According to the Fuerza Pública in Quepos, the driver had called in reporting that men in judicial uniforms were attacking his truck.

Esparza officers arrested three men with the last names of López Mendoza, Álvarez Valverde, and Salazar Ferreto, said the spokesmen. Police said they found uniforms marked as Policía de Control de Drogas in the detained car and that they found a bag of cocaine.

The security spokesman did not say if the arrests were related to the murder of the truck driver.

Our reader's opinion
Debit cards put at risk
when used at local bank

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I wrote you before concerning Internet bank theft and fraud, where my wife and I who live in Arenal, had our Banco National accounts emptied out by someone who got our Internet passwords, etc. I am writing again concerning the same subject because people need to know.

In this case someone at Banco National, probably at the branch here in Arenal, has been accessing our U.S. account and making or attempting to make withdrawals, apparently using our debit card (from our U.S. bank).

I feel certain that it happened or that they got the information because on one or two occasions, my wife and I have had to take the card into the bank to make the withdrawal, and the cashier takes the card to the back for several minutes and returns to complete the transaction. We were told by our banker in the U.S. that you should never let a debit card out of your sight if being used at a bank or for any purchase and that apparently credit cards are safer.

I know from being in business here and having a merchant account at Banco Nacional  to accept credit card payments, and also from having a merchant account in the U.S., that it is possible to take information that you have on file to make an unauthorized withdrawal from the information of the first transaction. I don't believe that the fraud happens through the automatic teller machines but inside (the bank in this case).

I am afraid it is coming to a critical point regarding Internet and electronic banking, which many of us expats use.

Britt Kelley

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 21, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 143

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Escazú expat just fed up with rise in violent crime here
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anarchy. That's how one recent victim in Escazú described the country's crime situation. 

After a violent house robbery in Bello Horizonte and what seems to be a wave of crime crashing around them, Gary Nash and more than 30 of his family members are planning on leaving the country.

July 12 six armed men, five of whom wore ski masks, broke into Nash's home, said the 55-year- old resident. The robbers tied up Nash, his wife, stepdaughter, and mother-in-law and began systematically looting the house, he said.

It was pure luck that Nash's 7-year-old daughter was playing at a neighbor's house, he said. Nash, originally from North Dakota, has lived in Costa Rica for 15 years and this is the worst crime has ever been, he said.
The recent robbery isn't the only violent act pushing him and his Costa Rican family out, said Nash. The day before the house robbery, two men on a motorcycle shot at driver in his vehicle, said Nash. The motorcyclists were believed to be the same men who had who  just caused a scene at ta local country club, said Nash.

Men have robbed other members of Nash's family at gunpoint. Gangs have pillaged the homes of many neighbors as well as prominent businesses in downtown Escazú, said Nash, who is a health care recruiter. His comments to A.M. Costa Rica were prompted by a news story last week quoting both the Judicial Investigating Organization and the local Fuerza Pública police director saying that crime was going down.

“Everyone is quite alarmed by it,” said Nash of others in the area. Nash said five of the houses in his neighborhood are owned by his family. The land has been in the family for 50 years, he said. The land previously belonged to the grandfather of Nash's wife, who is Costa Rican.

As one member of the masked gang was about to start a brand new pickup truck in the driveway, dogs started barking and Nash's neighbor saw the robber and yelled that she would call the police. After that the gang quickly dispersed with thousands of dollars worth of jewelry but nothing more, said Nash.

But after after being tied up and having guns stuck in their faces,  the family has had enough, said Nash. “I lived in
Los Angles for 19 years and never had bars on my windows or doors and my house was never robbed,” said the businessman. Nash said 30 to 40 of his family members were planning on leaving the country because of violence.

Nash said he didn't feel the country was safe for his daughter. “I'm not going to raise her in this kind of environment,” he said.

On top of it all Nash said he is frustrated with the legal and judicial system. According to Nash judicial investigators said they could not capture fingerprints from objects like a metal telescope, wooden jewelry boxes, or other plastic items in the home. Agents finally took the duct tape used to tie up the family for fingerprints, he said. Judicial officials were unable for comment Sunday.

When the family drove in to San José and stood in line to report the crime at the Judicial Investigation Organization, a representative said they could only hear from one of the four victims, said Nash.

Earlier when local Escazú police officers arrived to investigate the scene one officer asked for a flashlight and began to rummage suspiciously through the closets saying a robber could still be hiding. The officer took the flashlight, said Nash.

Mario Varta a local Fuerza Pública officer confirmed that Escazú officers had investigated the case although he did not know the details of the house search. Varta said the particular band of armed men is believed to rob a house every day in Escazú and that usually the group uses a Hyundai. Nash's stepson saw a white Hyundai parked near the home as he was leaving just before the robbery said Nash. Recent areas robbed have included Bello Horizonte, Guachipelin, and San Rafael, said Varta.

If officials expect crime to go down there needs to be a complete overhaul in the system, said Nash. Better laws, better funding for the police, courts and prison system. Rather than a slap on the wrist criminals should receive real sentences, he said. “The legal system is a laughing stock to anyone who has any experience with it,” said Nash. Although Nash is unhappy with the system, he said he strongly believes victims should report crimes or else nothing will ever happen or be recorded and it will appear as if crime is going down.

“It's sad because this is a beautiful country but there's nothing that makes it worth risking our lives.” Nash said he and his family are getting their properties ready for sale and plan to move to Florida.

New book features importance of Cartago basilica on Costa Rican life
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The cultural ministry will present a new book detailing the history and cultural importance of the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles Tuesday at 7 p.m. in parish hall of the Cartago church.

The book, titled “La Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles: Testimonio Arquitectónico de la Fe Costarricense” was written by Sonia Gómez, an employee of the Centro de Patrimonio of the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes, according to a release from the ministry.

As the title suggests, the book will offer an architectural testimony of the Costa Rican faith through an account of the basilica's physical structure, its history, and the religious impact on the country, accompanied by 36 pages of photographs taken by Jorge Eddy Solórzano, according to the release.

The basilica is the site of a massive religious pilgrimage that ends every Aug 2 with the a religious service at the basilica. Up to 1.5 million faithful make the walk to the site every year from all over the country and as far away as Nicaragua and Panamá.

The basilica houses the La Negrita statute that is the tangible representation of the Virgin Mary,  in her manifestation as Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles.

Gómez and Solórzano will be joined at the event Tuesday by María Elena Carballo, the minister of culture, the release said.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 18, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 142

Jersey man follows his dream on a bike to Tierra del Fuego
By Jeremy Arias
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

While most persons go about our daily business, be it work, school, retired relaxation and only enjoy the occasional vacation or noteworthy experience, there are some  who decide to take that extra step into the unknown, to live a life dominated by adventure and excitement.

Charles McKenna is one such man.

Originally from New Jersey, McKenna, 56, has lived in 11 different states in the United States and worked a slew of different jobs, including a cross country ski instructor, a truck driver, massage therapist and lastly, as a special education teacher in Hawaii. Then something changed.

“In 2004 my life went to hell.” McKenna said, recounting the death of his father in October followed by his sister in December, among other personal crisis. From this apparent chaos, McKenna began to rebuild his life, centered around his love of bicycling and an experience in 1998 where he biked from the West Coast to the East Coast of the United States.

“Getting towards the end of my ride I said, 'Gee you know this isn't so hard, what's next?'” He remembered. Using the inherited stocks he'd acquired from his father and sister, he decided his next logical step; he was going to bike from the Arctic Circle to the southernmost point in South America, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, and beyond.

On July 25, 2005 he began his epic journey 200 miles north of Fairbanks, Alaska. Four months later, he had reached Mazatlan, Mexico, where he bought two properties and briefly returned to Hawaii to sell his old house and settle affairs. Following a long delay, he began again this May 1.

Sunday he was just outside of Quepos in Londres at Finca Almanecer
 on the same 27-speed recumbent bike he'd began with in Alaska. Having covered so much ground, McKenna seems fully aware that he is living a dream.

It's something I've been wanting to do for a long time. it sort of the cycle tourist's dream,” he said. “I'm doing what all my friends did when they were in their mid-twenties!”

Setting up his inherited stocks to live on about 5 percent each year, roughly $1,200 a month, while also renting his properties in Mexico, McKenna fully expects to conquer New Zealand, Australia and Vietnam next.

Biking roughly 40 to 50 miles a day, McKenna said he has no real schedule. he simply rides from town to town, staying in cheap hotels and hostels, only taking out as much money from automatic tellers as he thinks he will need to reach the next stop. He doesn't really mind the service charge fees.

“I put up with that as opposed to taking a bunch of money with me and getting robbed,” he said.

He has had plenty of adventures on the way here. He remembers meeting a man  named Ron in a California
Mckenna and bike
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Charles McKenna  and his bike

hiker-biker camp site. Ron was making his way north with a grocery-store cart full of his possessions.

“God told him to start in Tijuana and walk up to the Oregon border and talk to people about Jesus,” McKenna laughs, “Attached to this cart at about a 45 degree angle was a 4-foot wooden cross.”
What was his worst experience? His first day. Pushing his bike more than riding in the permafrost of the Arctic circle, he came to “Finger Rock” a notable landmark in Alaska.

“The wind is blowing 40 miles-an-hour and I'm trying to pound my tent stakes into permafrost and it ain't happening,” He said. He eventually spied a nearby bathroom structure. “So that's where I spent my first night, inside an outhouse.”

“It got better from there.” He added, explaining that he is thoroughly enjoying his time here in Costa Rica. He has been staying in Londres for the past four days resting.

“The nature, the whole natural thing, it's absolutely beautiful,” He said, but added that the roads were dangerously narrow and in many places do not have a shoulder or space for bicyclists.

He is scheduled to leave Londres today on his way to Argentina, by way of Chile.

“I'm going to try to get to Antarctica,” He said, discussing his immediate future plans, “Just so I can get off the boat, get someone to take my picture and run back to the boat and say 'There! I did it, I've been to all seven continents!'”

For now, McKenna's plans remain largely undecided, but one thing is certain, from here on out, there will be no more of the daily grind, 9-to-5 job.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 21, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 143

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Turtle trackers say they have made an important discovery
By the Stanford University News Service

With a name like "Leatherback Turtle" you might think the sea turtles could stand up to just about anything the ocean can throw at them, and for more than 100 million years, they have. But tough, long-lived critters though they are, the population of leatherbacks in the eastern Pacific Ocean has plummeted by over 90 percent in the last 20 years.

Like many species that migrate across a vast ocean, pinpointing all the possible causes of their decline is difficult and figuring out where conservationists might be able to intervene on their behalf is hugely challenging. But a major effort to tag and track leatherbacks that nest on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica has yielded unprecedented insight into their behavior.

While most sea turtles, including other populations of leatherbacks, have widely varied dispersal patterns as they fan out across the ocean from the beaches where they nest, the leatherbacks from the beaches at Playa Grande have been found to consistently follow a relatively narrow corridor out into the sea, past the Galapagos Islands and across the equator to an area in the South Pacific where they linger at length. This discovery could be the key to the leatherbacks' salvation.

"Given that the turtles seem to move in a predictable way from the nesting beach through the equatorial region from roughly February through April, we could potentially suspend fishing in certain areas while the leatherbacks are passing through that part of the eastern Pacific," said George Shillinger, doctoral candidate in biology at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station.

By taking the new data correlating turtle movements with various environmental features along their route and comparing that with the timing of fishing activity in the different areas the turtles travel through, the researchers can pinpoint the times and places where turtles are at the highest risk — thus providing new opportunities for improved management of the leatherback population.

Shillinger is the first author of a paper published in the July 15 issue of Public Library of Science Biology and part of a large team of biologists and physical and biological oceanographers from the United States, France and Costa Rica who worked on the multiyear study.

The leatherback tagging study is part of the Tagging of Pacific Predators  program, which has tagged other animals including the white shark, bluefin tuna, black-footed albatross and elephant seal. The program is part of the Census of Marine Life, a global network of researchers in more than 80 nations engaged in a 10-year scientific initiative to assess and explain the diversity, distribution and abundance of life in the oceans.

Over three field seasons, from 2004 to 2007, Shillinger, co-author Bryan Wallace of Duke University and Conservation International and a team from Playa Grande outfitted 46 females on the beach with small tags that emitted signals that were picked up by satellites, enabling the team to track the turtles' location.

Shillinger and his colleagues worked with research oceanographers and co-authors Steve Bograd and Helen Bailey at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Daniel Palacios, also at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration but from the University of Hawaii. They examined turtle speeds and movements in relation to the distribution and strength of the equatorial current system and found that the turtles increased their speeds as they moved through high-energy areas.

But how much of the turtles' trajectory was from being pushed around by the currents and how much was the result of their own free will, they couldn't tell until French oceanographer and co-author Philippe Gaspar analyzed the data using a method he had developed to make that distinction. Once the effect of the currents had been factored out, the turtles were

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found to be consistently heading in a south-southwesterly direction.

Year after year, the track was remaining the same. Not only were the turtles heading in the same direction, they were actually trying to follow an even narrower path than the raw data showed. As Bograd put it, "They definitely had a place they wanted to go."

That place is the South Pacific Gyre, a vast region considered a relative desert among the world's oceans. So why go there if it's so barren?

"That's still a big puzzle as to why they choose to go to this region," Palacios said.

The only data available are satellite images showing the color of the sea. Researchers interpret greener water to be richer in chlorophyll, which is considered the foundation for the ocean food chain. Thus, the relative abundance of chlorophyll is inferred to indicate the relative richness of a fishery. Satellite images show very little green in the South Pacific Gyre.

But, satellites can only penetrate about 25 meters (82 feet) below the surface in the gyre. "Maybe the turtles are targeting something that is deeper in the water column," Palacios said.

"What are they doing there is a big question," Shillinger said. "Perhaps the tremendous water clarity may work to the advantage of these leatherbacks because they are visual predators," he said. "They can spot little specks of white out in the deep blue sea." Leatherbacks dine exclusively on gelatinous zooplankton, such as jellyfish.

Shillinger also said that there is a substantial longline fishery in that area, for bigeye and yellowfin tuna. "Obviously, the fish are eating something and it's something we're not picking up in chlorophyll signatures from satellite imagery," he said.

Given that leatherbacks have been recorded diving as deeply as 1,280 meters (4,200), they have ample choice as far as where in the water column they choose to feed. And considering that they can grow to over 6 feet in length and weigh up to 2,000 pounds, it seems like a safe bet that they're feeding on something.

The presence of the longline fishery in the South Pacific Gyre may be one of the reasons for the steep decline of the leatherbacks, according to Shillinger. Longliners going after fish such as tuna sometimes hook turtles. This unintentional bycatch can take a heavy toll on a species.

Shillinger said there may also be another reason for the leatherbacks' population crash, one not so obvious from their data.

There was one turtle that didn't follow the migration route to the South Pacific Gyre. Instead, it swam south along the coast of Central America, where it stayed for the entire time the tag was working, 588 days.

"It seems logical that turtles would want to move along the coast, because these are highly productive regions, where they don't have to work as hard to find food," Shillinger said. Even though only one of the 46 subjects of the study cruised the coastal areas, he said it might be a rare survivor of a larger population that used to swim in the coastal area, but could have been hit hard by human fishing pressure in the near shore areas. Gillnets and longlines are major threats to turtles in these areas.

Shillinger says they won't be able to answer that question until they have gathered more data, since very little current data exists about bycatch in these coastal fisheries. As the tags are designed to degrade and fall off, the researchers haven't been able to capture the turtles' movements beyond about two years. He suggests that turtles returning to Costa Rica from the South Pacific Gyre may turn out to be using the near shore habitats on their return.

There is still intense pressure to develop Playa Grande and that some illegal development is ongoing, Shillinger added, "This beach is more or less the last stand for nesting leatherbacks in the eastern Pacific, so if this beach goes, it's going to be a real blow."

Shillinger and his colleagues are cautiously optimistic about the impact their new data about the migration routes could have on bolstering the leatherbacks' survival rate.

The level of detail the researchers obtained about when the turtles are in a particular area along their route means it could be possible to have a major impact on reducing turtles lost at sea to bycatch just by temporary closures of certain areas. Temporary closures are likely to be much more palatable than long-term ones to the various nations and regulatory agencies that would have to agree on any closures for them to be effective.

And because the turtles' migration route crosses international boundaries, it is vital to have international cooperation.

In his efforts to bring the plight of the leatherback populations in the Pacific Ocean to people's attention, Shillinger teamed up with Stanford graduate Mark Breier to create and launch the Great Turtle Race, largely facilitated by Tagging of Pacific Predators  program and coordinated by the Leatherback Trust. In this educational project, a race among leatherback turtles across the Pacific Ocean is simulated using real data from the tagging project. This year's race, the second annual, ended in June and for the first time included data from leatherbacks that started from Indonesia, in addition to those starting from the Americas.

The tagging of turtles and the Grate Turtle Race faced some criticism from environmental oprganization in Costa Rica.
Coffee event on tap
at Museo Nacional

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A celebration that has been brewing for two centuries will begin July 29 at the Museo Nacional for the “200 years of coffee in Costa Rica” event.

Supported by the German Embassy and the Instituto del Café de Costa Rica, the celebration will begin at 2 p.m. with speeches by Rocio Fernández, museum director, German Ambassador Wolf Daerr and Ronald Peters Seevers, executive director of the coffee institute, according to a museum release.

Coffee tasting and music will add flavor to the occasion as various works of art detailing the history and impact of coffee on the nation are discussed and examined the release said.

The museum already has a gallery of coffee-themed works by national artists on display in preparation for the event. The free event will be open to the public.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 24, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 143

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 21, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 143

assortmetn of pastries
A.M. Costa Rica/Jeremy Arias                      
A few dollars brings a colorful investment. A cone-like cacho rests on loaf of sweet-milk bread 
This is where you really can exercise that sweet tooth
By Jeremy Arias
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The noise of traffic passing along the busy street outside is partially drowned by the low hum of refrigerators housing cold drinks and the occasional ring of the cash register that marks the sale of another pastry to a soon-to-be satisfied customer.

A mother enters the shop, her young son holding her hand and bouncing excitedly up and down by the counter. The boy immediately begins the chaotic, ritualistic children's dance: a youthful, energetic plea for sweets.

This is Lerners Panadería, a cozy, friendly bread and pastry shop just west of the Banco Nacional building in central San José where the mutual desire for something tasty transcends nationalities.

The air is ripe with the gentle, warm scent of baked breads stacked in rows under the register. Long loaves of melcochan and sweet-milk bread line the shelves behind the counter and the tantalizing cake and pie display seems to tempt passersby as it rotates slowly near the street entrance.

All in all, these tiny shops, which can be found throughout the central city, appear to have mastered the art of culinary seduction, and with their universally low prices, they are almost impossible to resist.

Cone-shaped cachos are a delight with their delicate, flaky bread surrounding a rich, smooth cream made of butter and vanilla. A casual window shopper may enter prepared to pay considerably
more than the 450 colons they cost.

With the Tuesday rate of 540 colons to the U.S. dollar, even a heavenly looking slice of lemon pie won't run a purchaser more than 93 cents. The surrounding shops are no different.

At the Panadería y Reposteria Richypan on the busier Avenida Central, a delicious rectangle of chocolate cake goes for 400 colons. At still another store on Calle 6, a bag of sugar cookies, a chocolate-filled doughnut and two heart-shaped cookies spread with jelly cost a total of 1,000 colons.

In the fast-paced capital of San José, with Burger King and McDonald's competing for business from opposite sides of the Plaza de la Cultura, it's nice to know that places like Lerners Panadería are still alive and well, offering Costa Ricans and foreigners alike a place to rest and sample the simpler side of life.

Back at Lerners, an older gentleman sips coffee as he chats with a cashier, his legs crossed and his back eased casually against the wall as the mother, her son satisfied with a newly-purchased cacho pastry, jets off into the hustle-bustle of Calle 8.

Temporary visitors to this oasis provided by the panadería are quickly lost in the faceless crowd. Another pair enters shortly afterwards, a man and woman, also holding hands. The man smiles happily as his companion orders two coffees, his eyes scan the shelves hungrily.

Another satisfied customer.

After 110 years 'Faust' finally returns to the historic Teatro Nacional
By Jeremy Arias
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Mephistopheles shall return to the Teatro Nacional this month with a performance of the Charles Gounod opera “Faust” to be put on by the Compañía Lírica Nacional.

Gounod's interpretation of the classic was the first performance put on by the theater for its inauguration Oct. 21, 1897. The opera company released the following synopsis of the opera:

Faust, played by José Luis Sola, is an aging scholar who offers his soul in the afterlife to the demon Mephistopheles (Vesselin Stoykov) in exchange for youth and good looks.  Smitten by the enchanting Marguerite (Birgit Beer), a rejuvenated Faust vies for her love with the noble protector Siebel (Joaquín Yglesias) and eventually seduces and impregnates her, only to abandon her to the torments of the devious Mephistopheles in her hour of desperation.

In an exciting climax, Faust does battle with Marguerite's brother, a returning soldier named Valentin (Fitzgerald 
Ramos). The tale concludes with a dramatic reunion between Faust and Marguerite, wherein she faces her final temptation, and Faust must contemplate the price of his bargain with Mephistopheles.

Scene design, costumes and lights will be arraigned by Stefano Poda while Ramiro A. Ramírez is music director, according to the opera company release.

The songs will be performed in French. The Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional and the Coro Sinfónica Nacional also will participate.

The opera will open July 27 at 5 p.m. Repeat performances will be July 30 at 7:30 p.m. and again Aug. 1, 3, 5 and 7. The performances Aug. 1, 5 and 7 will be at 7:30 p.m., and Aug. 3 at 5 p.m., according to the release.

Prices vary depending upon the seating, but the range is between about $40 for premium seats to as little as $2 for side gallery options, according to a theater ticket guide. Tickets are available in the theater ticket office or at the theater Web site.

Those high hole cards can be a bit tricky to playt
A common mistake made by amateurs is the way they play overcards after the flop when the flop misses completely.  Overcards are hole cards that are of higher rank than any card on the board.

In deep stack no limit hold’em tournaments, players start with a lot of chips.  In these tournaments, the most important decisions are the ones made after the flop.  That’s not the case in tournaments where the average stack is shallow.  In these tourneys, pre-flop decisions are essentially all you have.  It’s an easier form of poker to play.  With fewer decisions to make, it’s essentially a two-card game where you’re hoping for the best.

So let’s look at a sample hand in a deep stack tournament where you call a raise with K-Q and the flop comes 9-7-3.

If your opponent bets on the flop, fold your hand right there.  Don’t try to be a hero. You have nothing!

But you decide to call anyway.  Even if you do manage to improve your hand by catching a king or a queen, there’s still no guarantee that you’ll win the hand.  Your opponent could have pocket nines, or even A-A or K-K.  He’d have you dominated, and you’d be destined to lose a decent-sized pot. 

Besides that, you’d only have a 14 percent chance of catching a king or queen on the turn.  When you combine that slim possibility with the fact that even if you did get lucky, you still might lose, well, folding your hand should be the obvious decision.

And there’s another reason to dump this hand.  Say you did catch a king or queen.  The fact is that one pair hands are rarely good enough to win big pots in no-limit hold’em.  Trust me. Even if you were to pair up your king, the best play is still to proceed with caution.

The only situations where you might want to play after the flop with overcards are if you’re taking a stab at stealing the pot on a bluff or when you have additional outs to go along with your overcards.
For example, say you decide to raise before the flop with K-J.  The big blind calls and the flop comes 2-2-7.  Your opponent checks.

There’s no way for your opponent to know that you missed the flop completely.  So, make one more bet on the flop hoping to get him to fold his hand on your bluff.  Now, if he calls, or worse, raises, put on the brakes; there’s no need to lose any more chips than necessary.

You can also safely play your overcards when you flop a straight or flush draw.

In this example, you call a raise with Qd-Jd and the flop comes 8s-9h-4d.  You’re obviously hoping to catch a ten to complete a straight, or even a jack or queen to give you a possible winning hand. 

If a ten comes on the turn or river, you’d play your hand aggressively in a big pot.  But if a jack or queen hits, again, play your hand cautiously.

If instead of a straight draw you flop a flush draw, you’ve got the green light to play your two overcards.  This situation yields a very powerful drawing hand.  In some cases, it will even be a favorite over a pair on the flop.

Say you’re dealt the As-Ks and your opponent holds Jh-Jd.  The flop comes 9s-6s-2d.  While the pocket jacks might appear to be the best hand, your suited A-K will actually win the pot over 50% of the time.  Go ahead and play this hand with a big bet.

Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, "Hold’em Wisdom for All Players."
© 2008 Card Shark Media.  All rights reserved.

Jo Stuart
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