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These stories were published Friday, Dec. 24, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 255
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A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas 
You, too, can play with the bulls at the Zapote festival. 
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Puntarenas man to greet Christmas in prison
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This Christmas will not be a great one for Chuck Shannon, the real estate agent from Puntarenas.

He is in jail there branded as a child molester. He may be, but there also is a possibility that he is a victim of Costa Rica’s judicial system and the current emphasis on prosecuting child molesters.

Shannon is in preventative detention after three workmen on a building in an adjacent lot told police they saw him molesting his daughter in an upstairs bedroom.

Shannon complains that the statements are not consistent, but a prosecutor and a judge put him in jail for investigation, and representatives of the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the child protection agency, put his 4-year-old daughter in a foster home. That was Oct. 19.

The same evening someone burglarized his rented home and pretty well cleaned it out. The burglary was easy because Shannon was not there. He was in jail.

A judge has denied a third appeal of his preventative detention, Shannon learned Thursday. He decided to change lawyers. But little can be done now because the courts are going into recess until Jan. 17.

Shannon, in a telephone call from the prison in El Roble Thursday, was explaining his situation when another inmate stuffed a piece of paper in his back pocket and set it on fire. This apparently is the way one is informed he has talked too long on the public phone.

Life has not been good in the prison for a Canadian national facing a molesting charge. 

Shannon said a group of inmates forced him from one cellblock because of the nature of the allegations against him.

Outside the penal center his real estate business has pretty much been destroyed. Several deals in the works have collapsed because he is jailed, he said. One transaction lacked only papers being filed, he said. But the papers were still sitting on his desk when police arrived to take him into custody.

Shannon has been in Costa Rica for 10 years. He has made a few enemies. He is in a dispute with his landlord. He has complained repeatedly about a nearby bar that plays music at a high level on Saturdays. He won a custody action against his ex-wife. He has complained about a lawyer working for a government  agency.

He said he is surprised that he was jailed so quickly because he knows of no evidence against him except the statements of the workmen, who say they witnessed him taking indecent liberties with his daughter. Shannon says that the bed in his bedroom where the act was supposed to have taken place cannot be seen from the window.

The workmen, residents of San José, were constructing a home on an adjacent lot. Shannon said that his lawyer was not allowed to be present when the three men made their declaration to investigators.

He also says that two examinations of his daughter, a forensic examination and a psychological evaluation, fail to support the allegations of sexual abuse. Prosecutors have yet to present their full case to a judge.

Still Shannon said that this Christmas season "I still don’t even know where my daughter is."

 
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Costa Rican Christmas still has its unique aspects
By Clair-Marie Robertson 
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff 

Christmas celebrations in Costa Rica have, throughout the years, acquired many foreign traditions. The turkey dinner and Santa Claus are both new additions brought from the United States and Europe.  Costa Rica, however, has many of its own traditions that will always guarantee that Christmas here is unique. 

The precedence of the Nativity scene over the Christmas tree, tamales, the Corona de Adviento and the gallo Mass are among other traditions that ensure a Costa Rican Christmas is one to enjoy. 

The arrangement of the Nativity scene is very much a family affair with fathers often taking on the role of project manager. The children are sent out to collect twigs and moss, as the mother looks on concerned that her guests arriving in the evening will have nowhere to sit. 

Families invest a lot of time and effort into making each year's Nativity scene better that the last, and the displays frequently outgrow the space under the tree or on the table and begin to monopolize a large part of the living room.

Throughout the world, food plays a large part in the celebration of Christmas, and Costa Rica is no exception. The tamal is the traditional Christmas food, and once again its preparation usually involves most of the family. Tico kitchens turn into small steaming production lines of the delicious banana-wrapped treat. 

For the Costa Ricans, the Corona de Adviento 

signifies hope and light. It is made of a crown of leaves and branches from the Cypress tree. Upon the crown four candles are placed, three purple and one pink. The candles are successively lit on each Sunday leading up to Christmas. 

Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day is the busiest time in Costa Rica. Leaving the Christmas meal prepared, most family’s head out of the house to attend the Catholic Mass at 8 p.m., the so-called gallo or rooster Mass. Although there is a midnight Mass (the real gallo Mass in most countries) at  churches throughout Costa Rica, many families prefer to celebrate the arrival of the Baby Jesus at home sharing prayers with their family at that time. Traditionally, the midnight Mass has been named after a rooster, because the ritual ends about the time the chickens are awakening.

After they have eaten their Christmas meal, Costa Ricans wait for the clock to near midnight. Children, wide-eyed and excited that they have been allowed to stay up so late, are asked to go and hide in their rooms as the household awaits the arrival of the Baby Jesus. 

Upon reappearing the children find that their stockings have been filled with presents. It is then the job of the youngest member of the household to place the figure of the Baby Jesus into the cradle of the nativity scene

As the tired turn in for a good night’s rest, the celebrations continue throughout the night. 
Many family members talk about the year that has passed and generally catch up until the early hours of the morning. Christmas Day is spent visiting families, sharing meals and attending church. 


 
A.M. Costa Rica/Clair-Marie Robertson
Exhausted after cycling all the way from Puntarenas to Santa Ana, Diego Arce from Ecuador takes a much deserved rest.

Long leg of cycle tour:
Puntarenas to Santa Ana

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Participants in the 40th Costa Rican cycle tour had to peddle 129.6 kms. Thursday, some 90 miles, from Puntarenas to Santa Ana.

Hundreds of spectators welcomed the cyclists as they made their way into Santa Ana, which is west of San José.

Diego Arce of Ecuador was one of the cyclists: "I am very impressed with the difficulty of the course. There are 14 stages and this was the eighth. I love cycling." 

Federico Ramírez, the Costa Rican cyclist, is now the leader of the tour taking the place of the Colombian Libardo Nino, who has now fallen to third place. 

Today the ninth stage of the tour will take place from Heredia to the north of San Jose, a much shorter distance of approximately 13.8 kms, some 8.6 miles.
 

Possible solution seen
in impasse at airport

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Contraloria General de la Republica and the Consejo de Aviacion Civil have 45 days to decide whether any further works on Juan Santamaria International Airport should be postponed. 

After three weeks of meetings between representatives from Alterra Partners and the government, a list of possible solutions has been produced. Postponing the work on the airport would mean that the construction of a new road around the southern terminal and a new maintenance building would be put on hold until further notice. 

This agreement would signify that Alterra would have to collect the necessary funds to pay its creditors on a loan of $120 million. Once this has been done, work would resume on the modernization of the waiting areas at the airport. In addition to this, in accordance with a contract approved in 2000, a percentage of any profits made would be given to the Costa Rican government.

The agreement also stated that the airport tariffs at Juan Santamaria cannot affect its ability to compete with other airports in the rest of the continent. 

Alterra will make a request to the International banks that their period of repayment of the loan would be extended by a further four years. Al Romeu, the manager of Alterra said that this plan will be put into action Jan. 15.

"Interestingly, the problems that Alterra has faced since it started to  invest in Costa Rica have been very similar to those faced by other international investors who responded to Costa Rica government invitations to invest in improving the country’s infrastructure," said Romeu. 

Romeu said that it is no coincidence that many companies have already left, and that those that remain are either considering leaving or seeking to exit at the earliest possible opportunity. Romeu said that he believes that this is because of the lack of legal certainty in the country. 

No break for A.M. Costa Rica 

The news does not stop, and our readers come first. 

So A.M. Costa Rica will publish every day this week and
next. Christmas and New Year’s are the two days a year
that this newspaper does not publish. But this year the
two holidays fall on Saturday, a day when A.M. Costa Rica does not publish. 

We also are aware that persons all over the world rely on
us for breaking news, such as the early Christmas Day
earthquake last year.

Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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A.M. Costa Rica
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James J. Brodell........................editor
Saray Ramírez Vindas...associate editor

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A little bit of the 1960s found in Ciudad Colón
Was it H. L. Mencken who said "They don’t make nostalgia the way they used to?"

San Francisco’s Haight Street during and after the summer of love was the scene of three revolutions: sexual, political and culinary. I returned there from the military to the sounds of Jefferson Airplane, the sights of strobe lights and psychedelics and the smells of patchouli oil, wintergreen cigarettes, fresh flowers in the hair of the barefoot and bra-less and wafting essences of cumin and cardamom seeds. 

In reaction to the carnage in Vietnam, the young people eschewed all kinds of flesh and chose, instead, to eat new grains, handmade pasta, home-baked bread, fruits and vegetables without pesticides and herbs and spices from Southeast Asia, Africa, India and Latin America. They ate everything that was "pure," inexpensive, belly filling, meatless and philosophically identified with peasant populations of the world. The new food began to show up in Berkeley, Madison, Boston and the East Village. The new breed sang peace anthems at open air be-ins, marched down boulevards against war and made love.

In short order, the cuisine was co-opted by the over 30s, prepared by French chefs, reduced to pricey tiny portions and served as elitist spa food. Oh, for a trip (without the drugs of the 60’s) back to those older times and tastes!

If you are not meat and alcohol addicted, try Earthly Delights in Ciudad Colón. We met two of the four owners when my wife flirted outrageously with baby Colin at a play. Colin’s mom, Wendy, is the editor of Costa Rica Outdoors. Her husband, Marco, is a fine chef and purveyor of organic vegetables. Warren and Ruth own a café in New Jersey. He is also a sculptor, and she makes costumes and hats, performs as a clown and created the perfect large wall hanging for the dining room (the café’s logo of sun, stars and moon with enough glitter and mirrors to honor the Haight Ashbury). They own the orange walls and eclectic innards of Earthly Delights.

Pablo, the chef, used to cook at the U.S. Embassy. He and Marco have created a menu of fusion foods from the world over with imaginative use of ingredients as varied as coconut milk, peanut sauce, tabouli, hummus, ginger, balsamic vinegar, Indonesian tempe and wild rice. The dishes are sprinkled with a mixture of toasted and ground cumin, mustard, fennel and coriander (cilantro) and whole black and white sesame seeds. 

Bizarre combinations are often disasters for some chefs, but Pablo and Marco have a sixth sense about what works. The herbs and spices yield stronger flavors from soups to guacamole to main courses. Our typical Tico fare is usually overly sweet and salty, while seriously under-seasoned. It will be interesting to see how locals respond to this new tingle on their staid tongues and palates. So far so good. On our last visit, all the tables were occupied. 

All entrees come with a cup of soup and a crispy salad of perfect greens and sprouts. All three of the soups I have sampled, turmeric gold ayote, sweet melon and rich potato have been superb. Different salad dressings contain Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, ginger, raspberry and olive oil. 

The menu includes pita pizza, pasta with a host of sauces, sandwiches, Middle Eastern sampler (tabouli, hummus, olives, babaganoush and tzaziki with pita toast points), Indonesian noodles with peanut sauce, eggplant 

Dr. Lenny Karpman

On 
the 
food
we eat

 

A.M. Costa Rica/Clair-Marie Robertson
Café's sign suggests the 1960s

parmesan and daily specials. One special was a generous plate of tomato cheese quesadillas. Another was a lasagna shaped rice and mushroom pie with a crusted cheese roof, created by Pablo. Convention alone precluded licking the plate. 

The drinks are non-alcoholic. Agua de sapo, sugar cane juice and freshly ground ginger, is a zesty combination. I can’t vouch for the desserts. We have always been too full at meal’s end to indulge. Juanma (Juan Manuel), the handsome, attentive waiter provides excellent service. Portions are large. Prices are not. Soup-salad-main course combos are 2,200 colons ($4.80), daily specials 1,200 colons to 1,500 colons and dinner-size soup bowls with garlic bread are 900 colons. 

Generally, I don’t review restaurants in their first two months of operation. They need time to work out the bugs, train the staff and solidify their identity. Earthly Delights is in its infancy and is, therefore, even more deserving of accolades. 

Currently they are open for lunch and dinner every day but Tuesday. We look forward to the crepe and waffle breakfasts they are adding in the future. When heading west into Ciudad Colon, the road becomes one way, eastbound only. Turn right, then left at the next corner. Left again in three blocks and the café is on the right side of the street across from the radio tower. 
 

Food: 2&1/2 stars 
Price: $ 


 
Joys of living in the city and a rainbow to boot
Last weekend I experienced the delights of living in the city. A dinner party was in progress on the rooftop balcony of the building to my left.  It looked quite elegant, with Christmas lights, candles, red jacketed waiters and music wafting into my apartment. 

Below my balcony, in the back patio/garden of the house on the street just below mine, the family was having a holiday get-together and cook out.  That was a nice party, too, with more lights.  At first it did sound as if the whole group was in the grips of mass hysteria.  But a prolonged peek over my balcony showed it was just high hilarity. 

They were evidently taking turns telling riotous jokes.  I was enjoying this vicariously (people having a good time does bring a smile — and I personally think that we are all Peeping Toms when given the opportunity). I did wonder, though, how the women could withstand the chilliness of the December night in sleeveless dresses.

When it was time for me to go to bed, they were still going strong, and I decided I needed my earplugs.  It took me a while to find them, and I realized it has been some time since I have needed them! Either I have become accustomed to the city noise, or things have become quieter. It’s probably a little of both.  I went off to sleep to the muted strains of Latin dance music.

Saturday morning I attended a big band jazz concert at the Julia and David White Artists Colony.  The performers were musicians from the National Symphony and other groups.  The music brought back so many memories of dancing to big bands in my youth.  Bill has different concerts every month on the third Saturday at the new time of 10 a.m.

By Monday I was beginning to get into the Christmas spirit so I decided to go downtown and do some basic Christmas shopping.  I was wearing a sweater and wondering if it was enough.  Although the sun was out and the sky overhead blue, the chilly breeze was blowing a drizzling rain right at me.  My umbrella turned inside out twice before I reached the bus stop. 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

A five -minute bus ride put me on 6th Avenue, where there was no breeze and the sun was shining unimpeded.  Now my sweater seemed too much.  After shopping a while, I caught another bus to the Paseo de los Estudiantes.  On this street (9th) the breeze had become a wind and the misty rain had resumed.  It was as if I had crossed three different climate zones in the matter of blocks.

After more shopping and laden with groceries, I hailed a taxi.  As I got in, the taxista said, "Mire, un arco iris."  In the eastern sky was a huge rainbow of purple, blue, pink and yellow.  It looked solid enough to walk on.  It lasted all the way home and while I ran upstairs to the penthouse apartment to get a better view  and even as Ulisis, who lives on the eastern side of the building, invited me in to look at it some more.

That evening, at a Christmas party at Big Mike’s, I met a Costa Rican couple from San Pedro. We were the only people there who lived on the east side of San Jose. I asked them if they had seen the rainbow.  They had, and were as charmed by it as I. 

I told them of my first Christmas morning in my current apartment, how I had awakened at 6 a m. and gone out on my balcony, which faces west.   And there in front of me, spanning the entire view of my city, was this huge double rainbow, going from the mountains on the left to the mountain range on the right.  There was not a car on any of the streets that I could see nor the sound of another human being around.  It was my Christmas rainbow. Now another one had appeared.  And I was happy to be able to share it. 


 
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Despite the presence of many informal bullfighters at the Zapote festival, this hunk of hamburger on the hoof seems to have singled out a man in a blue shirt.
A.M. Costa Rica photos/José Pablo Ramirez Vindas

 
Just remember to keep your eye on the big bull!
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The bullbaiting began Thursday at the Festejo Popular in Zapote. Some 1,000 persons turned out to see the melee.

Organizers lamented the turnout and blamed uncertainty caused by Ministerio de Salud inspectors who approved and then disapproved the structure housing the event with the bulls. Wednesday’s event had to be canceled.

The idea is pretty simple. The informal bullfighters get in a ring. There were about 200 Thursday. Then a bull is released. After the animal gets over his confusion with having so many people around, he becomes aggressive. Encouraging his change in mood are those who shout at, slap and otherwise annoy the animal.

The bulls Thursday were from the Ganaderia Santa Maria in Guanacaste. Some 12 animals were available for the event that went on into the night. It is televised all over the hemisphere.

A participant was Carlos Arredondo, 44, a Costa Rican living in Florida. He made the news last August when military officials told him that his son, Alexander, 22, a Marine, had been killed in Iraq. He walked out of his house and torched a military car.

Thursday Arrendondo was wearing a photo of his son and trying to stay out of the way of charging bulls. He said earlier that he was facing the bulls because he and his son had planned to do that before the younger Arrendondo was killed.


Carlos Arredondo, 44, father of a U.S. Marine killed in Iraq, keeps an eye out for a bull. He wears a photo of his son.

 
Will someone please tell this bull that he is not supposed to jump over the barricade and that he is supposed to remain in the central ring?

 
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