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(506) 2223-1327       Published Friday, Aug. 22, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 167       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
About us

Arroz con Akee

Arroz con akee, a type of fruit
Centro de Investigación y Conservación
del Patrimonio Cultural photos
Rondón or fish with vegetables
Traditional treats of Limón and Heredia compiled into new book
By Melissa Hinkley
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tasting will just be the icing on the cake when the book "Cocina Tradicional Costarricense 2, Heredia y Limon" is presented on Monday at 4 p.m. at the Biblioteca Pública in Limón.  The book will give the public a glimpse of some traditional recipes
caribbean bread
Fruta de pan Caribeña
from those two provinces.

The book, the product of a contest featuring some traditional recipes of Heredia and Limón, was made so that oral recipes can be remembered forever and shared with the rest of the population, according to the culture ministry.  This is the second book in a series. The first contained recipes from Guanacaste
and the central region of Provincia de Puntarenas. 

Some of the dishes from the citizens of Heredia will include angú de guineo, carne fingida rellena, mondongo en salsa, picadillo de arracache, budín de ayote sazón, delicia de pejibaye, polvorines and chicha de cohombro.

Although the names may seem intimidating, the recipes can actually be quite simple and the results are generally very positive.  Mondongo is a traditional Caribbean pork stew prepared with slow-cooked, diced tripe, or the cleaned stomach and intestines of a cow.  Vegetables such as peppers, onions, carrots, cabbage and celery are added.

Picadillo de arracache is usually prepared with ground beef and arracache.  Arracache is a vegetable that is only harvested twice a year.  Other vegetables and flavorful ingredients such as
onion, garlic, cumin and cilantro are added into the mix and occasionally served on a tortilla.

Limón located along the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica has a strong Caribbean influence in many of the dishes.  Some recipes from Limón residents will include, one pot, fruta de pan caribeña, rondón, plantain tart, chicheme and sorrel.

Rondon is patois for “run-down” as the cook needs to run down or chase the ingredients necessary for this fish soup, according to online sources.  Traditionally, the soup contains some type of fish, coconut milk, Caribbean vegetables and other spices to taste. 

Plantain tarts are just what they sound like, a pastry filled with plantains, sugar and some spices.  Plantains are similar to large bananas but they have a very different taste and are typically cooked and eaten.   

In addition to all the traditional Caribbean dishes, there are some unique drinks such as chicheme.  It is a very common drink in Panama and it is made from milk, condensed milk, coconut milk, sweet corn or cornmeal, cinnamon, vanilla, and water.  Another drink is sorrel, a Jamaican drink that has been noted for its healthy benefits.  The typical ingredients are sorrel, ginger, water, sugar, wine and pimento grains.

"Cocina Tradicional Costarricense 2, Heredia y Limon" is published by the Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural, a unit of the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes.  The author will be present during the presentation of the book Monday.  There will be artistic presentations with singer and songwriter, Ernesto Sinclair and a girl, Imani Campbell Watson.  The public will be able to taste some of the dishes from the recipe book, the ministry said.

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Work crews are hanging Costa Rican flags on the Autopista General Cañas in anticipation of the Sept. 15 independence day holiday. Public buildings and many private facilities also will be decked in the national colors.

Agents troubled by killings
involving young couples

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another execution-style slaying of a young couple has generated fears that some sort of serial killer is on the loose. Investigators say this is the third such case since June 19.

A unique feature of two of the cases is that the bodies of the man and the woman were dumped several miles apart.

The latest case is presumed to have begun late Tuesday or early Wednesday. Fuerza Pública officers became aware of the crime when a passer-by found the body of Rolando Orozco Alpizar, 24, near the fence of the Tobias Bolaños airport in Pavas. He had a single bullet wound to the head.

A little while later, the body of Pamela Chávez Umaña, 22, turned up in a vacant lot not far from the U.S. Embassy. The man and woman had been dating and they last were seen Wednesday evening when they left a home to visit a restaurant.  Orozco's car was found intact in front of the condominium where Ms. Chávez lived with her mother.

The Judicial Investigating Organization Thursday confirmed the identity of the woman. She did not carry identification, but neither the belongings of the man nor of Ms. Chávez were taken.

June 19 a journalist, Julio Acuña, 34, was found dead in a similar fashion in Alajuelita. His companion of the previous evening, Yoselin Rojas Chinchilla, 23, a teacher, was found dead in Escazú. Gunshots to the head were the causes of death.

The same day investigators learned of two more deaths when bodies were found along route 32 in Tibás. Again the victims were a man and a woman. Three of the six victims were university students.

Although the Judicial Investigating Organization said that homicide agents were working hard, they are frustrated by the lack of evidence. For example, no bullets have been found, and it appears that at least some of the victims were killed elsewhere and dumped. Incorrect reports said that the victims had had their hands tied behind their backs. The Judicial Investigating Organization said Thursday that this was not the case in the killings of Orozco and Ms. Chávez. There did not seem to be any indication that they had fought with their killers.

Agents are troubled by the apparent randomness of the crimes.

Early in the Acuña-Rojas case agents began seeking a former boyfriend or girlfriend and considered the crime the result of a romance gone bad. They have been unable to develop evidence to show that.

Most of the victims were persons who lived normal lives and were not involved in the drug trade or other criminality.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 22, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 167

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Exhibition seeks to put Costa Rica on the fashion map
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When people think of the world's fashion capitals, Costa Rica probably does not come to mind.

But the small Central American country is among New York, Milan, and Paris, when it comes to “fashion week,” an event held in cities worldwide to promote the fashion industry.

Costa Rica's fashion week was started in 2003 by Juan José Jiménez as an idea to boost productivity and competitiveness, Costa Rica's textile and the clothing industries.

Jiménez who continues as the director of Costa Rica Fashion Week this year, said the project has grown so much designers are now fighting to be given a place in the event. This year's event features local Tico designers as well as international designers from México, Canada, Chile, Perú and Argentina.

Jiménez said the free trade agreement with Chile was a major factor in the country's strong participation this year. He added that the free trade agreement with the United States will boost Costa Rica's fashion industry in terms of more options and better prices. He also said it will give Costa Rican designers the opportunity to show off their products to the U.S. market. 

Costa Rica Fashion Week started Thursday morning and continues through Sunday night at the Cariari convention center in Torre Geko west of town.

The center also features designer jewelry stands, boutique fashion booths, and a Chilean wine stand. The event is open to the public, but especially designed for employers, directors, managers and buyers, with interest in doing business and strategic alliances, according to the fashion week organizers.

Proceeds from one of the shows will go to a project in
designer Diseñador Papillon Blanc from Canada.
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
This creation from the Papillon Blanc line by Sophie E. Edmond of Canada was part of a show Thursday night.

Cartago that promotes HIV-AIDS awareness and helps victims and their children. That show will feature transvestite models and a collection of work from Aurelio Iser, a designer known in Cuba and Costa Rica.

Other runway fashions include the Papillon Blanc line by Sophie E. Edmond of Canada, a line by Eduardo Villegas of Mexico, and Wet by Daniela Castro of Costa Rica. More information on events and prices are available at

Museum will open its doors to display jail cells from its military past
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Cuartel Bellavista in the Museo Nacional will temporarily reopen its doors Tuesday to show photographs of the old military headquarters and also the changes that the building has endured to become a museum.  

The public will be able to view the old jail cells of the Cuartel Bellavista which display social and political history from the 1930s and 1940s, said the museum.  The inscriptions on the walls were written by the soldiers and prisoners of war with stones and reflect their feelings. 

The written grafitti is fully intact and gives a glimpse into 
the culture and history of the Cuartel Bellavista, said the museum.

Visitors can appreciate the jail cells that were used to discipline the soldiers and to hold prisoners of war as well as the bathrooms and sanitary services, according to Lidilia Arias, the exhibition's curator.

The Museo Nacional is between avenidas Central and 2 on Cuesta de Moras.  It is east of Plaza de la Democracia.    The exhibition will be open during the museum's normal schedule, from Tuesday to Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 
The military installation became a museum when Costa Rican revolutionary junta abolished the army in 1948.

The purse is really the gateway to another dimension
I have found one of the famous black holes — it is in my purse.  It IS my purse. It seems that everything I put in it disappears into its dark depths. 

The other day I was downtown crossing Avenida Central on the corner where the department store Carrion is located.  Every time I see that store, I think how Spanish speakers laughed at the name Nova for a car – because in Spanish it means doesn’t go -- I also am sure they have no idea what carrion means in English.

I have been in the Carrion department store only once.  It’s nothing personal.  It’s the rack after rack of current fashions cloned into seven different sizes that depress me. I do all of my shopping at Ropa Americana – I won’t see what I wear in a smaller size on someone else – and now what I buy is called "second-hand chic."

But I passed a side entrance of the store and saw a display of lingerie and thought about the sad condition of my nightgowns.  My favorite is a second-hand one that Mavis gave me.  The fine Egyptian cotton is threadbare.  So I entered.  At the door, the guard took my cloth bag holding my bus book and umbrella and gave me a ficha.   I noted the number, as I always do – 252 -- and put it in my purse in the place I always put it.

I found a nightgown that I figured would fit and took it to the desk.  The clerk there apologized that the computers were not working and that I had to go to the front cashier. The eager clerk said she would show me the way.  I debated whether or not it was worth walking through three departments to get to the front of the store and then back again to get my possessions.  Easier than returning to the store another day, I thought. 

The line was long and slow moving.  All of the computers in the store were down.  Once again I thought about the consequences of massive crashes in a computer-dependent world.  Even the cash registers didn’t work, so after the clerk laboriously filled out my receipt for 6,200 colons ($11.50), I laboriously searched through my black hole of a purse for the correct change.  Then back to the side door
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

to pick up my cloth bag.  I reached into that same black hole. No ficha.  Soon I was dumping everything from my purse into the cubbyhole where my bag was waiting.  No ficha.

In exasperation I went back to the front cashier, with another clerk in tow as we both searched the floor on the way.  Nothing.  So back to the side door.  The guard told me that I could retrieve my things by paying 1,000 colones or fill out a form.  I am thinking, “Remember rule No. 1: Don’t lose your temper."

“No,” I said to him sweetly, at the same time slamming my palm, as if absent mindedly, on the shelf of the cubbyhole (Boy, did that feel good),  “I just want to leave."  “This,” I added, “is my first visit to this store and probably will be my last.”  Since I was smiling as I said this, he smiled back.  Perhaps because I was handing him a 1,000 colon ($1.84) note at the same time.  I left muttering, “Carrion, indeed!”

When I got home, I discovered the sleeves of the nightie were too tight.  I had to return it.  I went to my purse to retrieve the receipt.  It was not there.  It was not anywhere.  No way would they take back my purchase without a receipt.  In a fit of determination, I got a pair of scissors and cut the sleeves along the seam.  That did it.

A few days later I explored a new Ropa Americana second-hand store.  I found a nice blue nightie that fit perfectly and a red blouse of handkerchief cotton.  The bill came to 3,000 colones ($5.50). Later I actually reached into my purse and came up with the Ropa Americana receipt.  I guess that black hole has returned to its proper place in the universe — for the time being.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 22, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 167

Constitutional court to review firings at Calderón Guardia
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court suspended the dismissal of the director of Hospital Calderón Guardia Thursday.

Officials at the social security institute fired the hospital director, Luis Paulino Hernández Castañeda, last week after they investigated the hospital fire that killed 19 people July 12, 2005.

Officials at the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social also fired Carlos Vílchez, administrator of the hospital, and Fernando Roldán, director of hospital maintenance. Vílchez filed a habeas corpus case against the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social stating that the agency had violated the fundamental rights of himself, Hernández, and Roldán.

Magistrates at the constitutional court ruled that the officials may return to their positions while the case is reviewed.  The court also demanded a copy of the complete investigation conducted by the social security institution.

The institution has three days to hand over the documents of the fire investigation, stated the court ruling.

Meanwhile many hospital workers went on strike Wednesday in protest of the dismissals, according to reports.

Thursday afternoon, hospital employees gathered on the plaza outside to hear speakers cry out against the actions of the social security institute. “We are not afraid!” yelled speakers as signs voicing support hung in the background.

The court will study the investigation of the fire and, if it is flawed, the three men may keep their positions at the
hospital strike
A.M. Costa Rica/Elise Sonray
Workers gather at the hospital in northeast San José to vent their feelings.

hospital, according to the court ruling. If the investigation is accurate, the men must leave.

Last year a three-judge panel found a 23-year-old nurse's aide guilty of starting the Hospital Calderón Guardia fire and sentenced him to 50 years in prison. The man convicted was Juan Carlos Ledezma Sánchez. Witnesses testified that they had seen him near the storage room where the fire is presumed to have originated.

The blaze swept through a surgical recovery wing and even killed two nurses as they tried to evacuate patients.

Calderón Guardia had been plagued by small fires until the early morning tragedy. The fire showed that the hospital did not have adequate safety measures in place.

The big fire broke out July 12, 2005. The board of directors decided to investigate the tragedy less than two weeks afterwards, according to habeas corpus claim. Officials from the social security institution dismissed the hospital officials more than three years later on Aug. 13.

Centro Cultural to award prizes for its photo contest winners
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Centro Cultural Costarricense-Norteamericano organized a photography competition to create a culture of peace. The contest was open to students who wanted to express their artistic abilities through digital photography. 

The photography contest generated more then 40 photographs from students of the main headquarters,
alliances, and art center collaborators.  The top three photographers choosen will receive prizes, as well as 10 students who will be honorable mentions.  The exhibition of the work will be displayed Tuesday at 5 p.m. in the Galería Sophia Wanamaker at the center in La Sabana. Prizes will be handed out at this time also. 

The 13 images selected will be utilized for the digital calendar for center.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 22, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 167

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Crime in México begins to galvanize citizen responses
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Violent crime continues to plague Mexico in spite of government efforts to fight drug smugglers, kidnappers and other organized crime groups. Some border towns have become open battlegrounds, and citizens in some areas are taking the law into their own hands.

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Shootings have become an almost daily occurrence in some Mexican cities along the U.S. border. In Ciudad Juárez, just across the Rio Grande River from El Paso, Texas, gunmen are now threatening the Red Cross workers who come to the aid of shooting victims. Red Cross spokesmen say they had to suspend emergency operations after someone called them on their own radio frequency and threatened to kill rescue workers who came to the scene of a shooting.

Violence has claimed more than 780 people in the border city of about 1.3 million people so far this year. Most of the shootings result from turf wars between rival gangs, but some of the violence is directed at government police forces trying to stem the tide of crime.

Meantime, in México City Thursday, governors from Mexico's 32 states, federal representatives and citizens' group leaders came together for an anti-crime summit. Government leaders have been scrambling in recent weeks to respond to outraged citizens fed up with the crime situation.

Ricardo Gonzalez Sada, who represents the business group COPARMEX, says much of the problem is the result of official corruption.

He says Mexico needs to end the corruption that exists in the police forces and completely overhaul its judicial system.

The crime that roused the passions of Mexican citizens to take action occurred a few weeks ago when kidnappers murdered a 14-year-old boy even though his wealthy father had paid the ransom. This was only one of many recent cases in which kidnap victims have been mutilated, tortured and killed.

Mexican President Felipe Calderón has called for tougher sentences, including life in prison for certain categories of kidnapping. Other politicians have called for the death penalty. But critics say those measures are unlikely to help as long as police are either too corrupt or inept to solve the crimes.

According to the Mexican Attorney General's office, kidnappings are up more than 9 percent this year, averaging 65 per month nationwide, but independent groups say the actual number is much higher. Many victims never report the crime because police are often the ones doing the kidnapping.

In one town near México City this week a crowd of over 100 people savagely beat two men whom they suspected of being criminals engaged in kidnapping. Local authorities managed to rescue them from the mob and handed them over to state police.

Citizens groups are planning a march in México City and other large cities for Aug. 30. One of the organizers, Elias Kuri, warns politicians not to exploit the march for their own political ends.

He says this is a citizens' movement and that government officials should assume their responsibilities to do something about crime.

As Mexicans react to news from international organizations that their country is now considered worse than Iraq and Colombia for kidnappings, government leaders are focusing more attention on the issue. Interior Secretary Juan Camilo Mourino says the public has a right to be angry and he worries that if the government does not take effective action soon, vigilantism will grow, something that he says will only make the problem worse.

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