A.M. Costa Rica

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These stories were published Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 217
Jo Stuart
About us


Skies clear enough to see a magnificent
sunset tell us
that the dry season is on the way. The photo was shot Tuesday on Avenida 1 near the legislative complex.

A.M. Costa Rica/Jesse Froehling

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Day to remember

A shattered marker left still shows the delicate flower border placed there by a loved one in the distant past.

Today, Dia de los Santos Difuntos, is when Costa Ricans go to the cemetery to honor their dead relatives.

A.M. Costa Rica visited a special small cemetery for foreigners attached to the Cementerio General. That story is BELOW!

And then a reporter met a man who says God told him to keep the weeds and grass trimmed at the abandoned crypts at the same cemetery. That story is BELOW!

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday Nov. 2, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 217

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In a jam

Traffic jammed all over the metro area Tuesday evening when firemen battled  fires in Curridabat and in Alajuelita. Some 10 low-income structures burned up in Curridabat, displacing some 20 families and blocking the main highway.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray
 Ramírez Vindas

Traffic jam at Y-griega

Newspaper's readership
again sets a record

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The daily A.M. Costa Rica posted record readership statistics in all categories for the month of October.

The increase was fueled, in part, by the approach of the high tourism season.

Total hits for October were 3,192,660, a 13.4 percent increased over the 2,814,631 of September. Total reader visits were 110,441 in October, a 12.2 percent increase over the 98,467 of September.

Visitors to the daily newspaper Web site in October read at least a little bit on 618,370 pages, a 26.6 percent increased over the 488,410 pages read in September.

Unique visitors to the site, in other words the number of persons who visited but were counted only once regardless of how many times they signed on, were 50,462. That number is a record, surpassing the 43,421 unique visitors in September.

The previous record for visits (99,351) and unique visitors (45,435) was in March 2005.

The statistics are generated by a program at the newspaper's Web server. The program is not under the control of newspaper employees.

At the same time, the newspaper posted a traffic ranking of 46,063 with the Alexa monitoring service. This means that of all the Web pages in the world, only about 43,000 are more visited than that of A.M. Costa Rica. The position is easily the highest-rated site for English language news outlets related to Costa Rica and also is higher than some of the Spanish-language sites here.

Taiwan backing project
to forecast weather

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After the destruction of hundreds of roads, streets, highways, bridges and homes at the onslaught of past rains, it became clear to the Taiwanese government that Costa Rica and the rest of Central America needs more than an early weather forecast to prepare for hurricanes.

Monday, Tzu-Dan Wu, the ambassador to Costa Rica from Taiwan passed a 215 million colon ($438,238) check to the Comité Regional de Recursos Hidráulicos to develop an integrated system that would allow Central American countries to work together to prepare for future storms.

The hope is that a collaborative system will allow countries to alert their residents more quickly and thus evade deaths and property damage. 

The deal is part of the project, “reducing the vulnerability of the Central American isthmus against extreme natural disasters.”  Taiwan is spearheading the effort to start the system after a 1999 Guatemala summit of countries involved with Hurricane Mitch mandated the system.

Costa Rica is one of the few countries that recognizes the government of Taiwan as independent from the People's Republic of China. 

Popular eating spot
is scene of stabbing

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man chased another man into popular Chelley café early Tuesday and stabbed him several times in the arms and legs, police said. 

The drama unfolded as the pursuer chased another man down Avenida Central.  The fleeing man took refuge in the small restaurant which stands on the southwest corner of Avenida Central and Calle 9, the Judicial Investigating Organization said.  The 24-hour restaurant is much frequented by tourists and expats alike.

The pursuer pulled a knife and demanded money, reports said.  The man tried to run from the eating place but the attacker caught him and threw him to the ground where he stabbed him repeatedly in the arms and legs, agents said.  The attacker then fled the scene.  A short time later, police arrested a man near Parque Central matching the attacker's description, agents said.     

Gunshots put two men
into care of doctors

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two men went to the hospital Monday night with similar gunshots resulting from two different incidents.

An 18-year-old man, identified by the last name Gómez, checked into Calderón Guardia with a bullet wound to his left leg.  His story was that he was walking along Purral in Guadalupe  when a man jumped out of a Nissan Pathfinder and shot him for no reason, officers said. 

In a different incident, a 40-year-old Frenchman identified by the last name Faradfi withdrew 800,000 colons from a bank in Guachipelín de  Escazú.   When he left the bank, two men pulled up on a motorcycle, shot him in the left leg as well, and stole all his money, officers said.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 217

A small plot is a reminder of death in a foreign land
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Not all the foreigners who come to Costa Rica return home.  Some may be found still here at the Foreigner's Cemetery, some 100 meters east of the Cementerio General in Sabana Este.

Today is the Dia de los Santos Difuntos or the day of the deceased saints. Traditionally Costa Ricans go to the local cemetery to decorate the graves of family members. Hardly anyone will be going to the cemetery for foreigners because most of the graves are old and some are just memorial plaques.

The Costa Rican tradition HERE!

Today also is called the Dia de los Muertos, or the day of the dead. This is a big feast day in other Latin countries, but the commemoration is more sedate here. Costa Ricans do not surround themselves with and revel in death as do, for example the Mexicans. But most are Catholics, and other types of Christians or Jews, and members of these religions believe that the soul continues after death. In the Catholic liturgical calendar today is the Feast of All Souls and yesterday was the Feast of All Saints.

The cemetery for foreigners announces its name in both English and Spanish on the entry gate. To visit there is to become wrapped up in an earlier time when lives were shorter and to travel far from home was a life-threatening experience.

Allan Wallis, 44, "for 18 years Her Britannic Majesty's consul," died here July 15, 1870, and remains in the cemetery. The untold story is that of his 2-month-old daughter, Kathleen Allan, who died four months later and shares the same headstone. There is no sign of the mother.

Dead though Consul Wallis has been for many years, he does turn up on the Internet. An 1854 letter he sent from Costa Rica is in the stamp collection of the Repertorio Filatelico Costarricense.

One cannot help but feel for Walter Inglis, who dedicated a stone nearby to the memory of his wife, Agnes, who died July 7, 1870, mainly because the stone also mentioned his five children who died in infancy.

F. W. Richards died March 29, 1875, killed while on the "F.C. de C.R." He was a Charleston, S.C. native, born in 1852. There are no other clues showing why he ended up here although the F.C. was almost certainly the Ferrocarriles de Costa Rica, the train service then in construction.  Engraved in the headstone is the image of two hands shaking, suggesting that he was welcome here.

A.M. Costa Rica photos/Saray Ramírez Vindas
The iron sign over the gate is in two languages

Richards may have been an acquaintance of Hector B. Chase, of Tully, Onondaga County, N.Y. Chase died Feb. 26, 1875 "from injuries received on the F.C. C.R."

Or both men could have been convicted murderers recruited out of the jails of New Orleans to help Minor Keith build the rail line. A biography maintained by the United Fruit Co., founded by Keith and others, reports that is where a lot of workers came from in 1874 and 1875.

The biography said  of Keith: "The railroad's notorious reputation due to the large number of deaths made it hard for him to recruit new workers in Central America, so he decided to get them in the jails of New Orleans. He recruited seven hundred murderers and thieves but only twenty five survived to see New Orleans again. He also brought a boat with 2,000 Italian immigrants from Louisiana but when they discovered the miserable working conditions, they rebelled. Of those who decided to run away, 60 were lost in the jungle. Needless to say, the first Costa Rican railroad did not come without a terrible price."

However, the human price is not obvious in the San José Foreigner's Cemetery. Most of those who died building the railroad are buried on the Caribbean coast, and open questions are how and why did Richards and Chase end in the the capital.

A memorial plaque to Anne Rolland Corson was erected less than 30 years ago. She died in 1978 at 75. Nearly all the headstones and plaques date earlier than that. She was the wife of Ben Bennett Corson. However, some later crypts are in the small plot that measures some 150 feet by 150 feet. These seem to be spillover from the nearby Jewish cemetery because nearly all bear the Star of David.

Not all the plaques are in English.  Otto Rüegg, who died in 1899 is mourned in German, as are others.

Mrs. Inglis





A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Carlos Robles Jiménez makes his rounds at the Cementerio General

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Elizabeth Rojas Coto and Yorleny Ocampo Quesada have sold flowers in Desamparados for five years.

He follows the instructions of God to tend crypts
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today the cemeteries will be full of visitors who come to honor their departed family members. But at the Cementerio General in west San José there is a special visitor who comes each Tuesday and Friday.

He is Carlos Robles Jiménez, called Paraiso, by his friends. He is a retired employee of the Municipalidad de San José who carries his 78 years on a still-strong frame. He comes to take care of abandoned crypts.

He started doing this work 10 years ago when he visited a relative's grave in the cemetery. He found that the crypt of León Cortés had been abandoned to grass and weeds. Cortés, president of the republic from 1936 to 1940, was a popular politician who led the country out of the Great Depression.

Robles was surprised that the crypt of a famous individual like Cortés would be allowed to be overrun with grass, so he cut the grass around the crypt.

That's when he said he heard the voice of God telling him that keeping the crypts in order would be his goal and avocation. Since then he has been working for free keeping weeds at bay at abandoned crypts. And he developed an encyclopedic knowledge of the cemetery and some of its occupants.

The rose garden around the crypt of León Cortés is his work as are the daisies or margaritas at the resting place of Costa Rican poet Aquileo Echeverría and some of the important personages of the last century like Manuel Peralta.

He also visits with great respect what he calls La Casa de la Novia or the bride's crypt.  She was a young woman named Irene Mirlona Jiménez who collapsed in the church on the day of her wedding, said Robles.

"I guess it was her destiny not to get married," he said. Her tomb said she was 18 when she died in 1982.

The crypt is elaborate even for the Cementerio General where many of the burials are above ground in marble and plaster structures.

For those who cannot afford or do not want an ornate resting place, there is the La Capilla, an underground mausoleum.

This place it is usually empty and some people are

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
La Novia sleeps here

 afraid to visit, said Juan Carlos Azofeifa, who is in charge of the crypts. Some visitors say they hear steps and voices.  Caretaker Azofeifa is not without concern himself as he takes a reporter below ground into the corridor where walls of burial vaults tower on either side. He admits he himself hates to enter the mausoleum some 12 feet below ground.

Bodies remain in the burial vault as long as someone pays 40,000 colons every five years. If payment is not made, what remains of the body goes into a common grave.

Someone must enter the underground burial complex because many vault face plates are decked out with fresh flowers.

This week is a good one for flower vendors, although some report business is slow.  Those who used to sell flowers around the Cementerio General can no longer do so because the municipality has cracked down on street vending. Business is bustling around the main cemetery in Desamparados, however.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
The undergounrd vaults, called La Capilla, give some people the creeps.

A.M. Costa Rica/Jesse Froehling      
Drivers, in some sort of uniform, wait for fares at a taxi line in San José
Taxi drivers seem to accept demand for uniforms
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An order from the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes is causing taxi drivers to clean up their act. 

These couriers of the public, though remarkably astute about world going-ons and usually good for a laugh or two, aren't aesthetically respectable enough for the ministry's liking. 

Starting Monday, all drivers throughout the country have to dress in blue pants and a white shirt.  For the most part, they seem ok with it – even the youngsters that look like they just stepped off a skateboard.  Such uniforms are already mandatory for Cartago drivers, the ministry said.  Airport taxi drivers also dress similarly in brown slacks and a white-collared shirt.     

“It's more respectable,” said one affable 40-year veteran who was already sporting the mandatory attire.  He spread his arms and performed a half twirl to model for a bystander.  A healthy dose of gray chest hair poked out of his wrinkly shirt and the buttons hung open past his sternum.  “Respectable” might not be the proper word for the look.  However, the man definitely had an air about him that would make chit chat more comfortable than it is for many of his counterparts.  The man added that this was the first dress code he had seen in 40 years as a taxista.  
Simón, an easygoing counterpart, agreed.  “This is good because there are a bunch of clowns out there that dress in T-shirts and shorts and don't shave or cut their hair.  It's good we have to look more respectable,” he said.

Even when a bystander suggested that perhaps 12-hour shifts, six days a week would be more bearable in something more comfortable, Stephen, who looked like he still had yet to shave his first beard, shrugged and said he didn't care.  Many other drivers said the same.  Costa Ricans, as well as much of the rest of the world, grow up wearing uniforms to school, so perhaps the obligation to dress the same everyday is not as cumbersome as it would seem to someone who had never had that obligation. 

The ministry mandated several more changes as well.  After September of next year, drivers must have cars built in 1994 or later.  By 2008, all cars will have to be 1998 or newer.  Vehicles must also have at least 60 horsepower and show a yellow sign reading “taxi,” and “MOPT. ”  The sign must also show which cooperative that particular driver is a part of, if they belong to one.

Inside the car, drivers must display a paper with his or her name, a photograph, car number, license plate and the business the taxi is a part of.  Drivers must also use the authorized meter.  These precautions are so that users may file complaints more easily if there is a problem. 

Groups for and against trade treaty are playing it coy
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A lot of secrecy surrounds organizations for and against the free trade treaty.

The pro-treaty group that called itself  Por Costa Rica has no addresses on its Web site. A call to the phone number listed there was answered Tuesday by a women who said she worked in a call center in Pavas.

Meanwhile, a group that opposes the free trade treaty is not about to release information on its funding. The treaty is not going to a public vote so election rules do not apply. That group lists itself as Cosmovisiones, which appears to be a video production company in San Pedro. The company invites visitors to its offices in San Pedro.

The issue of secrecy came up because Cosmovisiones said the organization will not release reports of who donated money to its campaign until Pro Costa Rica does. The spokesperson for Cosmovisiones is Gabriela Cob, who admits to a family relationship with Pablo Cob, the executive president of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. But she would not elaborate on the relationship during a call Tuesday.

The institute, known as ICE, holds a telecommunications monopoly for the country, one that would be broken by approval of the free trade treaty with the United States and other Central American nations. The ICE unions are strongly opposed to the pact.
Cosmovisiones called a press conference Tuesday to air its complaint against television stations that refused to run its commercials. One commercial featured anti-trade treaty comments attributed to Óscar Arias Sánchez.

But this Arias lives in Guanacaste and is not the one who won a Nobel Prize and is running for president as the candidate of the Partido Liberación Nacional. Arias the politician strongly supports the treaty.

Cosmovisiones claims the major television stations are trying to censor its messages to the public. Channel 42, operated by the same company that runs El Diario Extra newspaper, did air the spot a week ago.

Cosmovisiones will take legal action to defend its right to free speech, representatives said Tuesday. They are Ms. Cob, Luis Paulino Vargas, representing Universidad Nacional, and Fernando Francia, another producer.

They say they oppose the treaty because of the inequality that the treaty will create. They cite the areas of education, health, food security and the weakening of the social and work laws.

“The TLC is cheating the people who have no knowledge about the treaty, they have a wrong idea. TLC is not a job for the Costa Rican people like the commercials use to tell," said Ms. Cob,  referring to the Pro Costa Rica television ads.

Jo Stuart
About us
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