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(506) 223-1327               Published Friday, July 27, 2007 in Vol. 7, No. 148            E-mail us   
Jo Stuart
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Fit for a queen

Restorer Ana Moraleda touches up bust of the Spanish Queen Isabella at Parque España. The Municipalidad de San José is repairing 40 statues  damaged by weather and vandals. Isabella was the queen who backed Columbus but also expelled Jews and Muslims from Spain.
Quenn Isabela
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

If it's not funny money, it's a gang of luggage lifters
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Passers of funny money have targeted local businesses, but one pair of suspects was detained Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Fuerza Pública said it has detained four Colombians here illegally who were helping themselves to the luggage of tourists who were waiting for the Paquera ferry.

The pair detained Thursday in Cinco Esquinas de Tibás were identifed by the last names and ages of  Zamora Noguera, 34, and  Rojas Rojas, 19. They were accused of passing 2,000-colon bills, a piece of paper worth about $4.

However, hotel owners are reporting the presence of a more ambitious fake money passer. A man is reported to appear at hotels supposedly to book a room for a sister or another relative. He pays for the room in advance with a $100 bill. Only after the man leaves with his change do hotel workers realize that the bill is false. The activities have been reported informally to A.M. Costa Rica.

This is one reason many businesses will not accept $50 or $100 U.S. bills. Colombian counterfeiters can make exceptionally good fake money that can
be detected only by an experienced eye.

The three men and a woman were detained at the ferry terminal in Barrio El Carmen in Puntarenas.

The Fuerza Pública said that the woman, identified by the last names and age as Semanate Daza, 52, was the subject of an international arrest warrant.

She was being sought by her home country to face a charge of international trafficking in drugs, police said.

The three men held were identified by the last names and ages of Rengifo Semanate, 21, Rengifo Domínguez, 54, and Velasco Arango, 38. Fuerza Pública officers credited a citizen with recognizing what crooks were doing as tourists waited with their vehicles in line to board the ferry.

Mario Calderón, regional director of the Fuerza Pública, said that the four persons are believed to be the same gang that operated at Juan Santamaría airport near San José. The Colombians will be deported to their own country, the Fuerza Pública said.

Tourist areas have been plagued by luggage thefts even from inside hotel rooms.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 27, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 148

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motocycle accident
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Diego Polanco González, 18, of Zapote became another motorcycle statistic Thursday when his cycle collided with a car driven by Bernie Lara in San Pedro. Lara said he could not avoid the motorcycle. Cyclists push the limits each day, and  frequently end up in the hospital like Polanco.

Early turnout of pilgrims
expected for weekend

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Traffic police will start Saturday to assert controls over pilgrims walking from all points of the country to the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles in Cartago, the transport ministry said Thursday.

Because Monday is a holiday, officials are expecting an earlier than usual flow of the faithful, they said.

The Policía de Tránsito will be on special duty from Saturday through Aug. 2, the feast day of the Virgin Mary, who is the object of the pilgrimage.

This year on Aug. 1 from 3 p.m. to 8 in the evening a 5 km. stretch of the highway from the Antigua Galera to Taras will be divided in half with walkers getting one side of the road.  The Autopista Florencio del Castillo will be off limits for heavy vehicles at the same time, the traffic police said.

Even in San Pedro from the Fuente de Hispanidad eastward there will be restrictions.

Some restrictions will be enforced as far south as Pérez Zeledón, and heavy traffic will be rerouted to the Constanera Sur, said the traffic police.

Bikes and skates will be prohibited, they said.

The three-day weekend probably will generate a lot of traffic returning from beaches and holiday spots Monday and Monday night. The traffic will mix with the pilgrims, called romeros in Spanish.

Between 1.5 and 2 million persons are expected to visit the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles over the next week. She is the nation's patroness. The pilgimage is a big money maker for food and beverage providers in Cartago and along the route, although the Ministerio de Salud said that it will try to enforce some controls on homemade foods.

Bills would give ownership
to those living in slums

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A measure that has been reported out for floor action in the Asamblea Legislativa would give ownership to as many as 35,000 persons who are now squatters on public lands.

The measure addresses the plight of persons who now live in what are called precarios, sections of land that have been invaded by persons in pursuit of a place to build a home. Some have lived there a long time.

The measure passed out of the Comisión Legislativa de Asuntos Sociales.

An exception would be persons living in zones of high risk, either from rising flood water or landslides.

The bill is technical but it empowers the various agencies of the state to incorporate these residents and provide them services officially.

The measure was proposed by the Movimiento Libertario in the previous legislative session that ended in early 2006.

Municipalities would be required to determine that the houses are situated properly and consistent with existing regulations.

Our reader's opinion
Follow good safety rules
and travel here is safe

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Re: Monday's Story - Not every helpful stranger is honest, tourist discovers

The tourist in question is correct when she calls herself  "muy stupido."  While her nationality is not mentioned, because she speaks English, I assume she is North American.  I wonder if there is anywhere in North America she would accept a ride from a car with five men she did not know inside?  What was she thinking?  

I checked the official tourism Web site, and nowhere does it say  "Feel free to accept rides from strangers."  I am puzzled that she blames them for her lack of common sense.  I also question the statement that the tourism board says "Everyone speaks English."  Again, with a little logical thinking, you would realize you are in a Spanish-speaking country and, of course, not everyone speaks English!

While the tourism Web site does not flaunt that crimes against tourists are indeed a fact of life here, it appears all too often that tourists leave their brains at the airport.  This particular tourist is lucky that her loss was so minimal.  Follow the same safety rules you would in any country anywhere in the world, and it is indeed relatively safe to travel here.

Nora Schild

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 27, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 148

Internatioinal Baptist Church
Borracho brothers

San José in 1960s: Just mix bulls with a bunch of drunks
By Lucía Wrestler*
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The day before was the traditional Tope:  people on horseback going from the center of San José to Sabana to pick up the bulls for our festivities.  The tope also has pretty little girls in curls all dressed up and going by a goat drawn cart, while Mom and Dad ride horses.  It is pretty festive and everyone goes to “Oh” and “Ah” at each new entry:  beautiful children, gorgeous horses and riders quite dolled up for the occasion.  There they go!  And as it is not a race, it is a spectacular parade.

This is the day that the typical year end festivities begin.  At this time in the 1960s the festival was in Plaza González Víquez.  There were the rides, the ferris wheel and all the typical booths, chinamos, selling practically everything.  And then there was the bull ring.

The bull ring was a round arena with a shallow pool in the middle.  The arena was surrounded by bleachers, which didn’t go up too high as they were improvised seating.  The bull fights wouldn’t start for a while so the arena was full of couples promenading around and people in the bleachers taking in the sights and talking to each other and the promenaders when they recognized a neighbor.

All of a sudden the trumpet sounds.  They are ready to release the first bull!  You look around and there is no woman left in the ring.  Only drunks are left.  And quite a great number of them.

The first bull comes in and rushes through the crowd.  Everybody scatters.  The bull stops and looks around.  Some bring a homemade cape and try to entice him to try for it.  Others try to ride him.  And a couple of sadistic ones have a board with a 4-inch nail in it and start hitting the bull’s flanks. 

So much goes on that the bull becomes confused. After a couple of rounds around the arena, he tries to go into the pool.  All the men in the pool get out and the enraged bull showers water on all he can.  The bull comes out and tries going a couple of rounds again. 

Then he just plain gives up, standing dazed, not
busted bull fighter

allowing anyone near him, but unmoving.  A horseman comes up, lassoes him and takes him away.

While they await the next bull, liquor bottles show up and are passed around.  With each bull they become more daring and, if possible, more cruel.

The third bull meets with bad luck.  The crowd comes toward him and he tries to avoid it by going into the pool.  They finally get him out and he goes back in the pool, but now they know how to flush him out.  With all the splashing around, the soil surrounding the pool is all wet and quite slick.  The bull rushes out with such bad luck that the people in the stands hear the crack as his left rear leg breaks.

With the crack, those in the arena all flock toward him, touching him, hitting him with the board with the nail in it.  The animal is in pain and can only stand on three legs so he cannot move too fast, but he can lower his head and charge.  With such luck that one of his horns gets the torturer with the board.  The crowd cheers, and the people in the bull ring rush to take the injured person to first aid.  The horseman comes in and quietly takes the bull out.

Later, a man who is also a butcher tells spectators not to worry so much about the animals.  After all, they are destined to be butchered the day after their “glory” in the ring.

*Lucia Wrestler, who lives in both Costa Rica and the United States, writes often about her childhood here.

In addition to being an author, Jo's friend Mavis is a poet
Mavis Biesanz and I are pals.  Recently we have been mostly phone pals, but we still enjoy discussing the day’s happenings and laughing at the ways of the world and life’s foibles, not to mention current politics, and what we recently have been reading. 

Mavis reads and listens to as many books in a week as I do in a month.  She has been the doyenne of the Women’s Club Book Club for as long as most of us can remember.  And she keeps up with what is happening outside her aerie on a mountain in Escazú, although I suspect her favorite “news” reporters are Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert.

Mavis is the author and co-author of a dozen books, including many college texts and “The Ticos,” as well as a delightful autobiography of her childhood in Minnesota, “Helmi Mavis: A Finnish-American Childhood.” 

After her husband John died 12 years ago, she followed Merlin’s advice to a young King Arthur: “when you are sad, learn something new,” and enrolled in a writing class with Costa Rican writer Carmen Naranjo. 

The result is her 12th book, “Un año con Carmen. A Year with Carmen,” a collection of bilingual stories (English/Spanish) that will be coming out this year (si Dios and the publishers quieren).  But just in case her mind is not active enough, she has assigned herself to write a poem a day.  She also writes birthday poems for family and friends.  I treasure mine.           
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

“Leaving and Arriving Home” printed below was written upon my request for something about her experience in Costa Rica.

This next was written one day after she had hurt someone’s feelings.  This was her apology – sort of.  I think we’ve all been through this.

The Trial

I see me sitting in the witness box,
Myself the accused, myself the grim accuser;
And I the counsel for both sides, for guilt or innocence.

Holding a gavel in the judge's seat
I bang it down, declare me innocent
And finally
Fall asleep.

Mavis is celebrating her 88th birthday today.
Happy Birthday, Helmi Mavis, I’m glad you’re my Pal 

Leaving and Arriving Home
We discovered Costa Rica in 1941,
Invaded and were conquered,
Analyzed and were enchanted,
Asked hundreds of questions, tabulated answers,
Joined solemn Holy Week processions,
Danced at quinceaneras, climbed mountains,
Peered into the maws of old and new volcanoes,
Talked with peons and presidents, took reams of notes.

Amusing and amused, proud and forgiving,
As if we were adopted kids and kind embracing mother,
She smiled Goodbye and welcomed our return.
Once, in the 80's, yearning to go "back home,"
I felt like a stranger, even in Minnesota,
Where old friends asked how I liked Puerto Rico,
But didn't hear my answer.
I visited from Arizona to New York,
Vancouver to Florida, was told "It must be great
To be back in civilization."

Time to return. My Gringo-Tico husband was lonesome.
I left the West at seven in the morning,
Hopped across country, stopped hours in Mexico,
Circled over Juan Santamaria, couldn't land,
Waited in Panama for fog to clear.

Landed at four a.m., sleepy and cross,
Complaining as I waited at the carousel.

Then a young Tico said the magic words:
"Tranquila, señora."
At last I had come home.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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Real estate
About us
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 27, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 148

Teachers march
over pay cuts

Some 500 secondary school teachers were on the march Thursday to protest a reduction in class load and pay as well as a computerized system of appointments which they said did not work well. They said the class hour change by the  Ministerio de Educación Pública would cause a 20 percent average salary cut.
teachers on the march
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablos Ramírez Vindas

As predicted, Fidel Castro does not show up at celebration
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cuba's acting president, Raúl Castro, Thursday led celebrations marking a 1953 rebel attack that helped launch the Cuban revolution. It was the first time in decades the ceremonies did not include aging leader Fidel Castro, who handed power to his brother nearly a year ago.

Tens of thousands of people turned out in the eastern city of Camaguey, to hear a speech by Raúl Castro marking one of the key dates on Cuba's calendar. Many supporters wore red shirts and waved the national flag or the red and black flag that symbolizes the July 26 revolutionary movement.

The date marks a failed attack led by Raúl and his brother Fidel against the Moncada army barracks in the eastern city of Santiago. Many rebels died in the botched uprising, and Fidel Castro was later captured and jailed. The attack, however, boosted Fidel's profile across the island and helped propel the revolutionary movement that toppled dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

Earlier this week, Cuban officials said Fidel Castro, who will turn 81 next month, would not appear at the annual celebrations, which he has led for decades. He has not been
seen in public since undergoing stomach surgery nearly a year ago.

In his speech Thursday, Raul Castro criticized the United States for what he called its failed and illegal policies against Cuba. He said Cuba will be watching U.S. presidential elections next year to see if a new administration will be open to dialogue with the Cuban government.

The 76-year-old army general said Cuba suffered a serious blow when his brother fell ill, but that the country never descended into the chaos Washington had predicted.
He said upcoming elections will be a new opportunity to show the force of Cuba's true democracy.

Cuba is to begin one-party elections in October, to select delegates who will later cast ballots for the government's top two posts, which are currently held by Fidel Castro. Analysts say it may be a key opportunity for top officials to confirm that, after 48 years in power, Fidel Castro is no longer in charge.

In Miami, many Cubans who sought to escape the Castro regime say there is little difference between Fidel and Raúl.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 27, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 148

Another demolition derby planned Aug. 5 at La Guácima
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For those who want more than the amateur wreckage typical of Costa Rican highways, the professionals are coming back Aug. 5 to the Autódromo La Guácima for the second intallment of demolition derby.

Promoters promise more and better cars. So far two heats are planned with at least seven vehicles in each. The three victors will move on to the finals, said promoters. In fact, they issued an invitation to anyone who would like  to participate. The only catch is that the vehicle will have to
be inspected to verify that certain safety devices are installed.

The speedway has several near junkers already lined up. They are not pretty and they do not have windshields.

The rules of the demolition derby are that colllisions can only be with the rear of the vehicle. They do not permit smashing into the driver side door of opponents or headon crashes. There is no point scale and no judges. The victor is the driver of the vehicle that can move under its own power at the end of the afternoon.

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Jo Stuart
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