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(506) 223-1327        Published Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 151       E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramirez Vindas
Tránsito officers have protected a traffic lane at El Guarco on the Interamerican highway.

Tonight is a big night for Cartago pilgrims
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The early flood of pilgrims continues to surprise police and other officials. Roads to Cartago were crowded by early Monday while officers of the Policía de Tránsito raced to block off roads and traffic lanes.

The pilgrimage used to be confined to two or three days, but this year a weekend and new Monday holiday gave hikers more options.

For some, the few days difference didn’t matter. Lesbia de López walked from El Salvador and showed up at the plaza of the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles to complete her mission of handing out flowers to other pilgrims.

Today is the big day for the pilgrims, called romeros. The major religious service is Wednesday at 9:30 a.m., so the faithful need to be in place tonight. Catholic Church officials will cooperate with a special service and a saying of the Rosary at dusk by candlelight. There even are fireworks planned. The mood is like that of a fiesta.

Musical groups have been playing for two days.

Many of the pews of the basilica have been removed to provide more space for pilgrims who must enter the sanctuary on their knees and crawl to the altar that way. Usually there is room for two rows of the faithful. But during these times of intense visits, six or seven rows are typical because the furnishings have been removed. The small statute of the Virgin Mary is high above the altar.

A spot check of pilgrims Monday morning
A page of photos

revealed a number from other countries and also a number of North American tourists who came to observe and photograph the religious event.

Nearly 2 million people will have shown their devotion to the Lady of the Angels or La Negrita, as she is called. She is the patroness of Costa Rica.

This year some are dedicating their pilgrimage to appeal for peace in the Middle East. Others will wear hair shirts or carry large wooden crosses to show their devotion. By 5 p.m. the flow of pilgrims through downtown San José and along the Autopista Florencio del Castillo will be a flood. A similar flood flows from the south of the country over the Interamericana.

Some overnight camping takes place inside the church, but most have to sleep under the stars and maybe in rain in the church plaza or other, less secure areas.

The drawn out pilgrimage has really taken a bite out of crime. Officials reported only one serious case Monday, that of two bandits who stuck up a delivery truck. They were captured.

Police know that crooks join the procession of the pilgrims, who are easy targets. Officers are out in force as are first aide workers.

This annual phenomenon of faith is never far from the minds of the religious who make pacts with the Virgin Mary throughout the year and then walk sometimes hundreds of miles just to thank La Negrita for the miracle bestowed.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 151

Costa Rica Expertise
Costa Rica Expertise Ltd http://crexpertise.com E-mail info@crexpertise.com Tel:506-256-8585 Fax:506-256-7575

Click HERE for great hotel discounts

Tamarindo surfer wins
charity classic there

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Isaac Vega of Villareal, the current Costa Rican national surf champion, won the Century 21 Coastal Estates Charity Surf Classic in Tamarindo Monday.

In addition, organizers said that the three-day fundraiser had brought in $30,000 in sponsored cash, $20,000 in donated services and $15,000 in prizes. In addition, the surf contest fees, donations, T-shirt and food sales,
raffles and other contest income, less production costs, will go to Tamarindo’s Ecological Blue Flag Program, the Tamarindo Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation and the Tamarindo Lifeguards.

Lou Maresca, the 2005-06 Costa Rican National masters champion, is also the head of the Tamarindo Surfrider Foundation. He said that the money his organization will receive will go toward water-testing kits that will be used in Tamarindo and Langosta on a regular basis.
The Tamarindo Blue Flag Committee, headed by Juanita Hayman, will use its funds to retain the ecological award that the beach recovered from the Costa Rican government in 2005. The group will continue to maintain the quality necessary for that reward via improvements such as water quality and environmental management, she said.

“I wanted to enter this contest, and do well in it because I want to do something for Tamarindo, since this is my home," said Vega after receiving his award. "Of course, I’m happy I won, and in doing that I helped my beach too,”

Nataly Bernold won both the womens category and the junior womens category. Jason Torres won the mens junior. Leonard Calvo won in grommet and William Aguero was first in masters category.

Our reader's opinion

Kudos for Deputy Arguedas

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Kudos to assemblywoman Evita Arguedas Maklouf for her demonstrating integrity, courage and compassion in her choice to participate in the demonstration against the indiscriminate killing of civilians in Lebanon.
In re: the grey matter-challenged individuals who thought the demonstration to be anti- Israel, might wanna take a little closer look at the New Testament - about the Jewish carpenter. If you're more comfortable with the eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth stuff, I would guess that both the IDF and Hezbollah are currently looking for new recruits.
Jim Shapiro
Long-time CR resident
now in Carlsbad, California

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We handle immigration services and residency procedures as required by the government for foreigners who wish to live in Costa Rica. For the last 16 years, we’ve provided competitive, dependable, professional services. With our integrity, loyalty, and honesty, thousands of satisfied foreign clients have obtained their Costa Rican residency.



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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 151

By tonight the basilica plaza will be crowded to capacity

Roads to Cartago continue to swell with pilgrims

It is an uphill grind as pilgrims near the city

Smart pilgrims stick with friends

The photos here were taken Monday morning in the Cartago area and at the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles. The flood of pilgrims is estimated to reach 2 million. That means one of every two persons in Costa Rica is making the pilgrimage, not counting foreign visitors.
A.M. Costa Rica photos
Saray Ramírez Vindas

Lesbia de López walked from
  El Salvador to give flowers

Tránsito officer spots barriers
along interamerican highway.

Two 911 workers await duty shift
while Cruz Roja staff unload gear.

On knees

By tradition, visitors to the basilica of the Virgen de los Ángeles must approach the altar on their knees The small statue of the Virgin is atop the altar in a secure container.


You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 151

Chávez talks revolution and refinery with Vietnamese
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, was in the Vietnamese capital, seeking support in his campaign to counter the United States' global influence and build what he calls a "multi-polar world". But the Vietnamese seemed more interested in Chavez's offer to help them build an oil refinery.

A military band in white with gold braid welcomed Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to the presidential palace in Hanoi.

Chávez, known for his defiance of the United States, is on a world tour of past and present political adversaries of the United States, including Belarus, Russia and Iran. He minced no words on what he felt Venezuela and Vietnam had in common.

Chávez says both countries had stood up against colonialism and imperialism.

These words have gone out of fashion in Vietnamese diplomacy, however. Vietnam today tends to put commercial interests ahead of ideological ones. Vietnam's President Nguyen Minh Triet emphasized the two countries' prospects for economic cooperation.

Triet said Vietnam and Venezuela could cooperate in many areas of society, economy and culture.

The two countries signed agreements to collaborate in diplomatic and cultural affairs and, most importantly, in mining and energy.
Both Vietnam and Venezuela are oil exporters. Venezuela is the world's fourth-largest oil producer, while Vietnam earned $7.4 billion from crude oil exports in 2005.

But Vietnam lacks any domestic refining capacity. A decade-long government project to construct a refinery has run into problems with corruption, design flaws, and lack of capital. Chavez estimated that with a refinery, Vietnam could save billions of dollars a year in gasoline imports.

Chávez enthusiastically promised to help Vietnam complete the refinery. Details of how he would do so were not released.

For Chávez, the stakes in Vietnam are more geopolitical than economic. The Venezuelan president is foremost among several leftist Latin American leaders who oppose U.S. foreign policy.

In the presidents' joint press conference, Chávez expressed his admiration for Vietnam's late communist leader, Ho Chi Minh. Today he plans to visit General Vo Nguyen Giap, the 94-year-old hero of Vietnam's wars against France and the United States.

Chávez said he wanted Vietnam's help in building a multi-polar world, in other words, one with alternatives to American power.

But Vietnam's President Triet was silent on this point. Vietnam has spent the past 10 years cultivating friendly relations with the United States, which is now its number-one trading partner.

Castro hands over power while he undergoes surgery
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fidel Castro temporarily handed over the reins of the Cuban government Sunday night to his brother Raúl, but the situation might be more than the reported  intestinal problem that requires surgery.

Cubans got the news when Carlos Valenciaga, Castro's personal secretary, read a letter said to be from the commander in chief on evening television Monday.

However, no news of the transfer was carried by Prensa Latina, the Cuban news agency, or by Granma, the official newspaper that has an online edition. The situation was similar to how the former Soviet Union handled the medical crises of leaders during the days of the Cold War. An early report of medical problems was followed by more serious news that prepared the public for a death.
For example, Soviet officials said that Yuri Andropov, then-general secretary of the Communist Party was hospitalized for several months and then announced that he had died of kidney failure Feb. 9, 1984.

Castro, 79, has just returned from an economic summit in Córdoba, Argentina, and presided over the celebration Wednesday of the anniversary of the start of his Cuban revolution.

Castro's 80th birthday Aug. 13 will be postponed until Dec. 2, the 50th anniversary of Cuba's armed forces, the letter said.

Castro's letter also said his medical condition was brought on by stress from working long days without sufficient sleep.

Castro has held power for 47 years. Raúl Castro is 74.

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Jo Stuart
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