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(506) 223-1327       Published Friday, Dec. 8, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 244        E-mail us    
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A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Purisma fiesta takes place inside the Nicaraguan Embassy where there also is a statue of Mary.
Nicaraguans gather to celebrate their big day here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For Nicaraguans, Dec. 8 is a spectacular day that weaves culture with religion.

On the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. And it is marked as a holy day throughout the world. But Nicaraguans take the day one step further. There and here where there are hundreds of thousands of immigrants the day is referred to as purísima as in la Purísima Concepción de María.

So Thursday night lines of the faithful showed up at the Nicaraguan Embassy on Avenida Central to pay their respects and have a party. The typical Nicaraguan household will have constructed a small altar featuring Mary, the mother of Jesus. She happens to be the patroness of Nicaragua the same
way that her manifestation as the Virgen de los Ángeles, venerated in Cartago, is considered the patroness of Costa Rica.

Technically the day marks the conception of Mary without sin. This has been a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church since 1854, but the concept goes back to the early church. Frequently the day is incorrectly considered the day that Jesus was conceived in Mary's womb without a human father.

A.M. Costa Rica has been guilty of this error.

Nicaraguans greet each other with the phrase: ¿Quien causa tanta alegría? meaning what causes such happiness. The answer is la concepción de María! As is traditional, the fiesta includes food and frequently sugar cane, as was distributed along with bananas at the embassy Thursday night.

Some
show


Hundreds of sick children admired the Christmas tree of the Hospital Nacional de Niños from the institution's balconies. This is the 42nd year for the tree lighting. There are 40,000 bulbs hung on the live evergreen.

A.M. Costa Rica/Noel Dekking


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 8, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 244  

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A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Sara Alvarez Rojas exhibits a sculpture she made at the Feria de las Artes in the Universidad de Costa Rica. The event continues today from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. with exhibits, workshops and concerts.

Orchid fair is opening
today in La Garita


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A large gathering of Orchid producers from around the world are hosting a flower fair this weekend, starting today through Sunday.  The event will be taking place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day and offering those attending more than 20 vendors with many different variations of the flower.

The orchid is one of the largest flower families, containing approximately 30,000 species and 100,000 hybrids.  Nearly 26 percent of the species here may only exist in Costa Rica.  Some of the varieties include phalaenopsis, oncidium, lycaste, cattleya and others.

For those looking to learn more about orchids, discussions related to the cultivation of the flower will be offered twice a day, at 10 a.m. and at 2 p.m.  A small entrance fee to the sessions of 500 colons will be charged, and children under 12 are free.
 
During last year's fair more than 5.000 people were in attendance, a number that has increased yearly.  Some of this year's organizers include the Estación Fabio Baudrit, the Ministerio de Producción, the Instituto Nacional de Innovación y Transferencia en Tecnología Agropecuaria, and the Technical Mission of Taiwán.
 
The event is located at the Estación Experimental Fabio Baudrit, of the Universidad de Costa Rica, located two kilometers from the Iglesia de Barrio San José de Alajuela on the highway to La Garita de Alajuela.

Christmas art fair ready
for a two-weekend run


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A group of local artisans, the Asociación de Artesanos Costa Rica Creativa, opened a Christmas craft fair Friday.

The fair features more than 60 artists' works in the Antigua Aduana building, which is located on Calle 23 just north of Avenida 3.   The Antigua Aduana building is the old customs building which has been acquired by the Ministerio de la Cultura, Juventud y Deportes.

Some of the represented works include Sughey Rodriguez's handmade dolls, Juan Ignacio Diaz Mora's  re-creations of buildings and houses out of bamboo, Kattia Elena Hernández Mena's wicker hats, baskets and ornaments, the Leitón Calvo artisan group's paintings,  as well as Pablo Brigato and Celina Risoli's jewelery.

The Christmas crafts show will be open from today to Dec. 10, and Dec. 14 to Dec.17 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. There will be foods and traditional beverages for sale and free performances throughout the day.  Some of the entertainment includes performers Marimba Antonio Ortiz, Cimarrona de Tres Ríos, Akitava-UNED, Rondalla CEFEMINA, Grupo Grecco, Marimba Orquesta Los Domingueños, and the  Trío Los Duques.

Most all of the artisans are on location to educate and speak with the public about their crafts.

Guest house and retreat
opens at Escazú location


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The grand opening of the Casa Sarong Goddess Guest House and the House of Self Empowerment Retreat Center & Workshop Space will be from noon until 6 p.m. today.

Vicki Skinner, owner of the new venture, said she developed the area in Escazú within two acres of lush vegetation.  One of the ideas behind the retreat center was to create a space for all kinds of self-empowerment workshops, a place where people can host their own seminars or feel free to attend those of others, she said.  The workshop space is also furnished with hammocks, tables, a bamboo garden and areas for personal solitude.
 
The guest house, which is set back into the forest, has six rooms which are designed for the convenience of those attending events, or simply looking for a nice place to stay,  Ms. Skinner, adding that she hopes the seminars will introduce new ideas and options for self-empowerment to the public.

Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. the retreat will be hosting Dr. Jack Miller, author of “Healing our Losses,” and the workshop goes by the same name.  Some of the central themes of the event include meditation, dream interpretation, creative visualization, and an opportunity to rid ones grief.

Ms. Skinner has spent much of her life developing similar retreats. More information is available by visiting www.CasaSarongGoddess.com.

Puriscal offers chichirrones

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Puriscal will celebrate its 100 year tradition of making chicharrones this weekend and next with the  Expoferia del Orchid fair is opening today in La Garita.

Puerto Jiménez has expofair

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Cámara de Turismo de Puerto Jiménez is hosting its Expoferia de Negocios Agroecoturísticos this weekend with an emphasis on sustainable tourism, agriculture and having fun. The town on the Osa Peninsula is adjacent to the Parque Nacional Corcovado.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 8, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 244  







A guest editorial
Home for abused kids runs on a bare-bones budget
By Jeff Alami
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Nestled in the hills near the town of San Ramón de Alajuela, is El Hogarcito, a children's shelter run by the most caring of San Ramon's residents. The kids admitted to this shelter are victims of physical and sexual abuse, abandoned babies, and orphans.

El Hogarcito is a transitional shelter — most of the children admitted stay for about six months to a year before they are sent to foster homes or adopted. These children, currently numbering 12, are from the poorest segments of society and need the help and love from generous and caring people.

These children come with stories that no child should ever witness firsthand. An 8-year-old boy was cut in the hand with sheet metal by his own father. One 5-year-old was beaten all over his body by his family. One baby was admitted at only 5 days old, beaten badly, and doctors weren't sure if he would ever walk. Thankfully, the baby boy took his first steps at the shelter, and now walks, albeit with difficulty. A girl was abandoned as a newborn.

The Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the child welfare agency in Costa Rica, provides a little support — about 65,000 colons ($126 US) per child per month, barely enough to pay for the caretakers (the "tias," or aunts), who make less than minimum wage, and the facility's psychotherapist, who is badly needed to help these children deal with their torments. The maintenance and utilities of the shelter, along with the basic food they need, come from donations and fundraisers. A local doctor with a private clinic helps with treatment and medicines.

San Ramon's fire chief, Oscar Zamora, is the head of the child shelter, having assumed that responsibility eight years ago. He is a 23-year veteran of the fire department. He feels so much for the kids, who are from the same neighborhood, and is dedicated to making sure the shelter stays afloat when it faces dire financial hardships. Through it all, he is optimistic, and hopes that donations and
government funding can increase the size of a shelter that has a waiting list of 14 kids who badly need help.

A parcel of land adjacent to the shelter was donated, and plans have been made for a new wing of the shelter that could house up to 35 children, including some of the older ones, up to 17 years old. This facility would include a shop with training programs to ensure the kids can have a livelihood when they leave the shelter as adults.

Currently, most of the kids are very young, ranging from a few months to 11 years old. These kids can be adopted, but be prepared for a rigorous evaluation process that is regulated by the Patronato. International adoptions can also be arranged from countries that have signed international adoption treaties with Costa Rica.

My partners and I own Farmacia Alvarez, a pharmacy in Heredia that appreciates all the business it gets from A.M. Costa Rica readers. We recently opened a jeanswear store in San Ramón, just minutes from the shelter itself.

As you may have seen, every year around this time we try to help the less fortunate, especially children. This year, the kids at this shelter really caught our hearts, as we found that they would need help to make it through — simple things like food, hygiene products, better living conditions, and anything to put a badly-needed smile on their faces. We are going to continue to help this shelter and the kids on an ongoing basis.

If you would like to help these kids, send me a note and I will provide money transfer information.
   
If a reader finds it easier, he or she can also mail U.S. dollar checks to Dundarave Pier S.A. at this address: Apdo 640-1005, San Jose, 1005, Costa Rica.

Checks take 15 to 30 days to clear at the local bank.

Please let me know at jeff@dpier.com if you've sent any funds so that I can respond with how we've been able to help.



A minority brief against asking for encores
It has been a while since I attended a concert at the Teatro Nacional, so when a friend invited me to take his extra ticket, I accepted.  His tickets were for Sunday morning at 10:30.  The same program is played Fridays at 8:30 p.m. as well as Sundays.  Personally, I think a symphony is a lovely way to start a day, even Sunday, when I usually start my day with politics.

His tickets were for the balcony.  Once you have climbed up the three long flights of stairs and then down the short but steep descent to the seats, you have the best spot in the house for viewing the entire orchestra and appreciating the acoustics.

Except for the Christmas programs, the season is about over, and season tickets for 2007 are on sale.  Tickets for the 12 concerts can be had for as little as 10,200 colons, probably the best bargain in Costa Rica.  For more information you can call 240-0333 Ext. 204.

The first piece, Verdi’s Vespri Siciliani, was delightful and far too short.  The second piece was a long one, Max Bruck’s Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra. Aikiko Ono, an award-winning violinist from Japan, was the young soloist.  She was very good and received several curtain calls.  Finally, in response to the continued applause, she came back for an encore. 

I heartily approve of curtain calls but am not keen on encores.  Actually, I don’t like them at all if they follow a larger piece of work.  It’s like wringing the last bit of effort from an artist, and it is simply not part of the whole.  Can you imagine Laurence Olivier after a stirring performance of Hamlet, coming on stage to recite an excerpt from The Wasteland or even a sonnet?  Or Marlon Brando, after being Stanley, comes out and recites Casey at the Bat?   Or the star of a musical comedy singing a song from another musical as an encore?  The mood has been broken.

I have no objection to applauding an individual performer like Celine Dion into one more song, but we wouldn’t think of asking the diva who has just performed Madame Butterfly to come out and sing a short popular song. 
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com


So far, I am a minority of about one who holds this view, and I seldom mention it although my friend Bill White and I used to discuss it as we were clapping away at a concert.  He disagreed with me. He loved encores.

Sunday, during intermission, after the first two works (and the encore) had been performed, an acquaintance came over to ask about my broken wrist.  We talked about how one misstep can change everything. Then he told me of his own recent harrowing experience.

He was out hiking alone (not a good idea) bird watching on the edge of a forest when he lost his way.  He decided he needed to cross the shallow river to find civilization, and stepped into the water.  Suddenly the current, along with the mud and stone bottom caused him to lose his balance.  He struggled to right himself, sure he was going to die.  By the time he managed to crawl up the far bank he had lost his camera and his binoculars and was covered in mud, not to mention, being badly shaken. 

We agreed, we both felt pretty stupid after our respective falls, There are some performances for which you never want to do a curtain call, let alone an encore.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional    under the direction of Ramiro Ramírez gives its Christmas concerts starting tonight at 7 p.m.  Sunday the orchestra performs in the Teatro Popular Melico Salazar at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday the performance is in Santo Domingo de Heredia. Dec. 15 the performance is in Curridabat at the San Antonio de Padua church facilities.  The admission fee is a gift suitable for a child up to 12 years that will be donated to the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia.





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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 8, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 244







Country will get 8,000 new multi-use public pay phones
By Arnoldo Cob
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 35 percent of Costa Rican homes still do not have a telephone installed. These are mostly low-income homes where occupants have to depend on the public telephone system.

But even in the best of times, the telephone has been confusing even if one was not broken.  Some take cards. Some take money, Some take one type of prepaid card but not others.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad is investing $20 million to install 8,000 new, multi-use public telephones around the country.  These will take brass coins of 5, 10, 25 and 50 colons.  The phones also will accept cards with a computer chip, the prepaid Viajera 199 card and the Colibrí card.

But the telephones will do even more. A user will be able to send a text message and even e-mail, according to the phone company officials who displayed the new machine Thursday.

Some 400 pay phones are now installed in the metropolitan area. Slowly these will vanish in favor of the new phones.

Pedro Pablo Quirós, executive president of the communications company known as ICE, said that today calls from pay phones are more expensive than those from home phones. Officials hope to make them equal, he said.

A.M. Costa Rica/Arnoldo Cob
This is the first of the new public phones
 
Plus the company is aware that many tourists use the public phones.

Right now text messaging is free because ICE has not been able to establish a rate that will have to be approved by utility regulators. The phones are being provided by CELSA, a Colombian company.


Jailed rebel leaders in Colombia break off peace talks with government
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Jailed paramilitary leaders in Colombia have cut off peace talks with the government after they were transferred to a maximum security prison. Officials ordered the transfer of the 59 men earlier this month because of reports that the men were planning a jail break.

President Alvaro Uribe also accused the jailed leaders of ordering the killings of two paramilitary commanders.
A negotiator from the Organization of American States,
 Sergio Caramagna, said Thursday the peace process between the government and paramilitaries has reached a crisis. Under the process, paramilitary leaders, of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia have agreed to serve prison terms, and some 30,000 fighters have laid down weapons.

Paramilitary fighters are linked to serious human rights violations during decades of fighting. Other leftist rebels. mainly the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia have rejected peace talks with the government.


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