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(506) 223-1327               Published Tuesday, July 31, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 150            E-mail us   
Jo Stuart
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pilgrims feet
A.M. Costa Rica photos by José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
It's pilgrims and not penguins who have happy feet
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Athletic shoes are the footwear of choice for pilgrims on their way to Cartago, according to a spot survey Monday.

Although a few participants used skates and skateboards, these youths might have been going home and not to visit Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles at the Cartago basilica.

Athletic shoes have improved in style, structure and price so much that a check of Internet sources failed to turn up any warnings against using them for serious walking. 

Leg cramps, blisters and other foot ills are the primary reason pilgrims, called romeros in Spanish, have to visit the many first aid stations set up by the Cruz Roja. Business will only get better as the feast day of the Virgen de los Ángeles draws nearer. It is Thursday. Between 1 and 2 million
persons will make the trek, some from distant locations.

One academic study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine did note that athletes wearing sneakers with air cells in the heels were more than four times more likely to get ankle injuries while playing basketball. The cells add height to the sneaker and make them unstable to some degree.

Diabetics have special footwear concerns, said the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society. Less feeling and reduced blood flow can cause serious problems, the society said.

Of course some of the faithful don't have to worry about foot problems. Most politicians and high church officials will arrive at Cartago by vehicle Thursday morning. No sleeping in the courtyard overnight for them. And a few of the very devoted will make the walk barefoot, perhaps carrying a giant cross on the back.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 31, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 150

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Basic macrobiotic principles
will be taught in September

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Readers who have been in Costa Rica for any extended time see the word “macrobiotics” in many stores. What these stores sell is mainly vitamins that have no real connection to macrobiotics as taught by Michio Kushi. Kushi was invited to speak in Costa Rica by Oscar Arias the first time Arias was president 20 years ago.

Kushi has been a world renowned teacher of natural healing for over 60 years since he started at Columbia University and has addressed thousands of professional groups including the U. S. Senate and the United Nations on natural healing and dietary principles.  Both of these groups have taken his recommendations in issuing their dietary recommendations along with Harvard University and the New England Journal of Medicine. 

Tens of thousands of people have cured themselves of all types of disease using his dietary methods including some world famous doctors, according to proponents.  The whole natural foods industry did not exist until Kushi started teaching people about the dangers of sugar, pesticides and artificial ingredients.

In September the long time assistant to Micho Kushi, Warren Kramer, will be giving a weekend introductory lecture and cooking class in Escazú.  Kramer spent 11 years with Kushi almost every day taking in his unique understanding of how to balance life according to the traditional principles of yin (expansion) and yang (contraction). 

Kramer is an expert at using this understanding to help people control fatigue, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, cancer, skin disease and digestive problems.

All traditional cultures embraced a way of eating and living that centered on whole grains to support physical, mental, and emotional health.  Hippocrates, the father of modern western medicine, used the word “macrobiotic” to describe a healthy, long lived life.  The real purpose of macrobiotics is not to cure disease but prevent disease from occurring.

Macrobiotics is at the most basic the use of balancing food according to acid (yin) and alkaline (yang).  Experts in the field including more and more medical doctors agree that illness does not develop when a person’s blood quality is in a relative alkaline state.

The modern diet which is high in refined sugar, processed white flour, excessive amounts of animal protein, carbonated beverages, and synthetic additives and drugs all contribute to an acidic condition causing illness but most of all a lack of peaceful life, according to the macrobiotics principles.

Sedentary lifestyle, overeating and late night eating also contribute to this acidic condition, they say.  This is easy to confirm by checking a person’s pH level.

The macrobiotic diet does not eliminate any particular food but is oriented toward those foods that cause a healthy alkaline condition. These are whole grains, miso, sea vegetables, pickles, beans, more contracted types of fruit.  

It is also very important to understand sea salt versus refined salt plays the most important part in maintaining a healthy disease free body.   Sea salt contains 60 trace minerals needed to digest salt in the body where refined salt is very difficult to digest.

Warren Kramer will demonstrate the art of healthy delicious cooking so a beginner can start to regain real health and happiness. He will explain how to balance food according to yin and yang.

The sponsor of the seminar is Angela Jiménez Rocha, an architect who took pills for high blood pressure for many years and was told by her doctor she would need to continue this for the rest of her life. One month of a macrobiotic diet eliminated the high blood pressure and the need for the pills along with 20 pounds that never came back, she said.

Class size is limited and advance reservation required.  Cost of the whole weekend is $200.  Sept. 15 and 16, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Escazú. Those interested can call Angela at 382-0970 or 827-1314.   Kramer also will be available for private consultation on limited basis Sept. 14 and 17.

Our readers' opinions

He thinks we're too soft
and wants more hard news

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
As much on intuition as opposed to cognitive fact, I feel that A.M. Costa Rica has recently lost some of its "zip" as it relates to the publishing of daily Costa Rica news which has been substituted by too many feature stories.
In the morning, I would like to read "news" as opposed to feature articles that, while interesting, do not tell me what's going on. If I wish to read sports, I'll got to Yahoo, or something similar. If I wish to read BBC, I'll go to that site as well. When I click on A.M. I am looking for daily news in or pertaining to Costa Rica that targets expats, tourists and English speaking foreigners.
For example, personally I like Garland Baker's work and if I know if it is on Page 4 I'll look for it. But as the only story on Page One? I don't think so.
By all means keep and nourish the feature work, but also increase current "news."
John Holtz
Santa Ana

Jacó faces water shortage

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The residents of Jacó have been complaining since the "gringoization" began. "Where will the water and electricity come from?" There was never enough to go around before the mega build out, so what will happen now?

Well we finally found out over this holiday weekend. The town is full, and there was no water all day Saturday and Sunday, mixed with electrical blackouts. And although it usually came back on (in the old days) by early evening, by 9 p.m. Sunday, there was still no water.

When AyA took over the water system here over a year ago, we were promised better service. We were deceived.

Lee Swidler

A.M. Costa Rica welcomes your letters on these or other topics. You may send them to

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 31, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 150

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Terx Mex is for sale

Environmentalists worry that new emphases on biofuels and production agriculture will cause more deforestation with results such as this displacement of soil.
land shifting
Steve and Debbie Legg photo

Reforestation project seems to be a big hit with visitors
EDITOR'S NOTE: A reforestation project near La Fortuna has received international recognition in environmental circles. The story below first appeared at and it is printed here with permission.

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Just over a year ago, Steve and Debbie Legg, owners of Leaves and Lizards Arenal Volcano Cabin Retreat, purchased a 26-acre dairy farm in Monterrey, Costa Rica. They built three cabins and opened to guests in January 2007. A vacation at Leaves and Lizards is an ecological and cultural experience. Guests may learn about the Meso-American Biological Corridor, the consequences of deforestation, spend the day with a Costa Rica family, become informed about the circle of life in the rainforest by their expert guides and eat food cooked with methane gas produced from the manure of their pigs and cows.

Many of the guests inquire about reforesting opportunities. Some have even purchased farms in need of reforesting. Others just want to do something to help reverse deforestation.

Proper reforestation takes planning and follow through. These are the steps necessary for a successful reforestation plan:

1. Clean-up and soil preparation — if the farm has natural grass, clean-up is done once before planting. If the farm has exotic grasses like Brazilian or gigante, it will take several clean-ups. These invasive grasses have been planted as pasture grass on cattle farms. They choke out and kill baby trees or other native grasses and plants.

2. Designing the new forest, ordering and careful transport of trees to the planting location. The design includes a variety of native trees. Teak, not native to Costa Rica, is commonly used as the pioneer forest. It grows rapidly, has large leaves that provide shade that the native trees need to grow. The teak can be harvested later to provide additional funding for future projects.

3.  Making sticks for tree supports, digging holes, planting and organic fertilizing of trees. In the San Carlos area of Costa Rica tree planting season is in May and November. These are the rainiest months.

4. Eliminating weed competition and pruning once a month for the next 24 months. It is possible to just let the land go back to nature, however, that takes longer and the new forest will have less biodiversity.

Biodiversity is short for biological + diversity, defined as the number of organisms in an ecosystem, region or environment. Rainforests are highly biodiverse; they cover only about 2 percent of the land mass on the earth, but contain 50 percent of all life on the planet. In 2.5 acres of primary rainforest there may be as many as 480 different species of trees. Brazil has the highest level of biodiversity in the world with 59,851 known different species of plants and animals. Sadly, they also have the world's highest deforestation rate. Brazil is responsible for 27 percent of the earth's yearly deforestation. The earth suffers 80,000 acres of deforestation daily.

A good reforestation plan includes ways for the new forest to support itself. For example, two trees are growing side by side, but in nature only one of those trees will reach old age. The less dominate one will eventually be crowded out by the larger tree. The smaller tree can  
tree tender
Steve and Debbie Legg photo
Jairo Arguello takes care of baby trees that soon will be planted.

be harvested and the wood used to provide funding for the farm upkeep, and further reforestation projects. Another tree is planted in its place. This is growing what Fred Morgan at Finca Leola ( calls a perpetual forest.

The reforestation project at Leaves and Lizards offers people a chance to buy trees for reforestation as a gift, memorial or as part of a vacation package. One package gives the supporter the opportunity to plant and care for the baby trees. Supporters receive yearly photographs, documenting the growth of the trees they sponsored. The Legg's work with Hector Ramirez from Reforest Costa Rica (

His knowledge and expertise of the local flora and fauna, as well as the connections he has in the community, prove to make this program a great success. Local farmers trust him and he is educating farmers about the need to protect their remaining forests and reforest to protect water sources.

As an ecologically and socially responsible resort, community involvement is the philosophy of Leaves and Lizards. Monterrey is a tiny, close knit community, perched in the mountains above La Fortuna. La Fortuna sits in the shadow of the Arenal Volcano and has experienced rapid growth as numerous tourists flock to the area hoping to get a glimpse of one of the most active volcanoes in the world. The community of Monterrey has watched Fortuna outgrow its resources and since the opening of Leaves and Lizards, Monterrey has looked to the Leggs for guidance in planning for future tourism.

Steve and Debbie Legg believe tourism should be a support to the community, remain in the background and not take over the community. Local leaders are taking proactive measures to ensure the preservation and continuation of the quality of life in this tranquil hamlet. The first meeting of the city association took place in February. The association facilitates community improvements including road repair, handling of garbage, recycling and water usage.

Many of the tours offered at Leaves and Lizards promote rural tourism. Farmers and other locals show off their farms, waterfalls and forests to the guests at Leaves and Lizards.

Residents of Monterrey have helped plant native trees and plants that produce fruit to attract wildlife to the resort for guests to enjoy.

Funds raised by Leaves and Lizards will help pay for farmers and individuals who are buying land to reforest to plant trees. This program may indeed be the seed of a thousand forests.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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Real estate
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 31, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 150

Expanding use of land mines increases Colombia casualties
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The world community is condemning a leftist Colombian guerrilla group whose increased planting of anti-personnel land mines is causing casualties in the South American nation.

The nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch says in a new report that the increased use of mines during Colombia’s extended period of civil unrest has caused a dramatic escalation in the number of mine victims in recent years.  Colombia is considered to have Latin America’s most severe problem with land mines.

José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director for Human Rights Watch, said last week that there is simply no excuse for the guerrilla group, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolutionarias de Colombia to use these indiscriminate weapons.  Vivanco said the mines are leaving Colombian civilians who have no part” in the country’s internal conflict maimed, blind, deaf or dead.

Human Rights Watch quoted Colombian government figures showing that 1,107 people were killed or wounded by mines in Colombia in 2006, as compared to 287 people in 2001. Annual casualty figures had hovered below 150 during the 1990s.

The State Department’s James Lawrence said that the rebels' continued manufacture and use of land mines is in bold defiance of worldwide efforts to clear mined areas and
ensure that no civilians are ever harmed by persistent land mines.  Persistent land mines are munitions that remain lethal indefinitely and have the potential to affect civilians long after military action is over. It took Costa Rica nearly 20 years to clear the mines left in the northern zone from the Nicaraguan civil war.

Lawrence, acting director of the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, said the United States is aiding the Colombian government with training and equipment to clear mined areas, is supporting assistance programs to victims of mine accidents and is providing mine-risk education.

Lawrence said that in fiscal year 2007, the United States will provide more than $500,000 in mine-action assistance to Colombia and the amount will expand once a peace agreement or cease-fire is reached.

Another left-wing group fighting the Colombian government, the Ejército de Liberación Nacional, is reported to have planted new mines on a road that links villages in the Colombian department of Bolívar.

Human Rights Watch said the Ejército de Liberación Nacional has offered the Colombian government a temporary cease-fire in the context of starting peace negotiations. 

Presumably, the cease-fire would include a cessation in the use of anti-personnel land mines, said the group.

Mexico and Argentina sign pact to improve political and economic cooperation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Mexico and Argentina have signed an agreement aimed at improving political and economic cooperation.

Mexican President Felipe Calderón and his Argentine counterpart, Nestor Kirchner, signed the pact Monday in Mexico City.

Calderón said the agreement includes mechanisms for increasing trade between the two countries. He also said it will speed up Mexico's incorporation into Mercosur, a
South American trade bloc that includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Kirchner said Argentina is totally in favor of Mexico's entry into Mercosur. He said Argentina regards Mexico's participation in the bloc as key to the development of Latin American countries and regional policies.

President Calderón said the new pact will also strengthen relations in the areas of politics, culture, technology and science. He said the two countries are working toward a deal that will benefit their automobile industries.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 31, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 150

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