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(506) 2223-1327        Published Friday, Dec. 26, 2008,  in Vol. 8, No. 256       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Sea cloud at dock
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Sea Cloud is dwarfed by cruise ships of today. Both are docked in Limón
Historic and elegant Sea Cloud makes port in Limón
By Tom Haworth
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The classic four-masted bark Sea Cloud sailed into the Port of Limón this week.  The 316-foot long windjammer sailed up the coast from Panamá with it's compliment of 30 sails billowing with a 20-knot wind at her stern.

Capt. Todd Burgman moored the historic ship alongside a huge cruise ship in front of the outdoor crafts market on the dock in downtown Limón.  Though only one third the length of the huge cruise ship alongside her, the Sea Cloud outclassed her modern rival in every other detail.
This elegant ship was constructed over a two-year period and was launched in Kiel, Germany, in 1931.  She was built as the honeymoon yacht for E. F. Hutton and his new bride,  Marjorie Merriweather Post (The Post cereal heiress).  Over the years, the yacht has entertained a huge collection of the who's who of the world.  Kings,  queens and many Hollywood notables also have enjoyed cruising on this, the greatest of classic yachts. 

Ms. Post kept the Sea Cloud in her divorce from E. F. Hutton in 1935 and used it cruising the world until 1955.  At this time, the bark was sold to the
Dominican dictator, Rafael Trujillo.  After Trujillo's assassination, the tall ship was sold to a Miami businessman who left it in Panamá where it
sea cloud bow
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The ship sports masts 178 feet tall

 was purchased and restored by its present owners  in 1978.
The Sea Cloud is now used as a cruise ship as she plies the world's ocean entertaining paying passengers, as she once did for the rich and famous.

Unlike modern sailing ships like the Wind Star in the Pacific with its electronically controlled sails, crew members on the Sea Cloud climb the rigging to do the work.
The great ship was to sail out of Limón this afternoon heading for the San Andres Islands of Colombia.  Her final destination on this 18-day cruise will be Havana, Cuba.

Gigantic gathering of horses and riders takes place today in San José
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats might feel a bit left out today if they did not bring their horses. Today is the day for the Tope Nacional, a horse parade of some 4,000 to 5,000 riders and their mounts through downtown San José.

This is the traditional day-after-Christmas event that also attracts other horse-related participants: carriage
owners, wagon drivers and even a few mules and donkeys.

The parade begins around 1 p.m. on Paseo Colón and follows the usual city parade route past the Hospital San Juan de Dios, up Avenida 2 and then south on Calle 9 (Paseo de los Estudiantes) to Plaza Víquez. Most cross streets will be closed off, and early arrivers will get the best locations

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Bad weather in north fails
to cause problems here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Christmas Day was spectacular in Costa Rica. Even in the Central Valley the day saw horizon to horizon blue skies until late in the afternoon.

Despite weather problems in the United States and Canada, airline arrivals appeared to be unhindered here. In fact, flights from New York and Newark where the skies also were clear arrived a few minutes ahead of schedule.

However, snow and ice storms across the United States have made it difficult for holiday travelers to reach their destinations, according to the A.M. Costa Rica wire services.

Many people were stranded overnight at the main O'Hare airport in Chicago, in the Midwestern state of Illinois Tuesday and Wednesday, after airlines canceled hundreds of flights due to snowy conditions. Flights from there to Costa Rica were not affected Thursday.

Adding to the trouble, an American Airlines plane at the Chicago airport slid off the runway late Wednesday after hitting an icy patch. Officials say no one was injured.

On the other side of the country, severe winter weather forced the governor of the northwestern U.S. state of Washington to declare a state of emergency on Wednesday. The governor said snowfall has reached record or near-record levels in 30 of Washington's 39 counties. She said many areas in the state are expecting more than 30 centimeters (one foot) of additional snow later this week.

The weather has also made road travel difficult. Slick and snowy conditions have led to a number of fatal car accidents across the United States.

Workers find AK-47 hidden
in Mall San Pedro wall

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers taped off a section of the fifth floor of Mall San Pedro Wednesday after workers found an AK-47 rifle and two clips.

The workers were remodeling a storefront in the mall when they made the discovery behind some sheet rock walls. Police said they also discovered a smoke grenade.

Police closed off the section of the mall while they searched for more weaponry. The AK-47 is widely used in the world because it can tolerate harsh weather conditions, temperature, mud and sand. A large store of such weapons exists in Nicaragua as a result of the civil war there, and the AK-47 seems to be the weapon of choice of South American revolutionaries and even security guards.

Police said that one clip was empty but the second contained 30 bullets.

Shoppers who had their vehicles parked in the adjacent upper levels of the mall parking structure had to find another way to get there, police said.

Liberia street robbery
end in arrest of two men

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers grabbed two persons suspected in a street robbery in Liberia.

Officers said the Tuesday arrest took place about two blocks north of Hospital Enrique Baltodano.  A pedestrian reported that two men took 600,000 colons and a cell phone from him. That's about $1,100.

The two suspects were stopped driving a vehicle. They were identified by the last names and ages of Peña Villareal, 28, and Sánchez Ponce, 23.  Police said they found other items in the car that they are investigating for possible links to other holdups. They also said they found a toy gun.

Newspaper four days next week

Don't forget to look for your A.M. Costa Rica Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and next Friday. The newspaper is being published every day but Jan. 1.

Editors and reporters will continue to monitor the news.   Major developments will result in special reports and e-mail notification to digest subscribers.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 26, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 256

Environmental watchdog saw 2008 case load grow 50 %
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo reported that it handled 50 percent more cases in 2008 than in 2007.

The environmental regulating agency said that in 2008 it opened 461 new cases and made five sweeps of areas where there was the possibility of environmental damage.

The agency is within the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones. It is much feared by developers because during the environmental sweeps the judges and inspectors of the tribunal cite projects for environmental damage and frequently close down the job sites.

The two most publicized cases are those against the operators of the Hotel Allegro Papagayo and against the company Quimicos Holanda. The hotel management is in court now trying to negotiate a financial settlement for allegations of polluting the adjacent Golfo Dulce with sewage.

The tribunal and the Ministerio de Salud closed down the hotel in February.
Quimicos Holanda is the owner of a liquid storage facility in the Provincia de Limón that blew up in 2006. The tribunal said that the environmental damage resulting from the explosion at the Moín plant was $6.5 million. Water sources were contaminated.

Another financial assessment, this one for $3 million in environmental damage, has been placed against two government agencies for activities in the Parque Nacional Palo Verde. They are the Servicio Nacional de Aguas Subterráneas, Riego y Avenamiento and the Instituto de Desarrollo Agrario.

Another major 2008 case was the seizure of the fishing boat Tiuna, which was captured within the boundaries of the Parque Nacional Isla del Coco. The tuna boat, its freezers full of its catch, caused $700,000 in environmental damage, the tribunal said. Most of that was in the taking of fish in the protected area.

In the metro area, the tribunal has haled the Municipalidad de Tibás into environmental court for failing to pick up the community's garbage. That case continues into the new year.

The answer to the question and a way to toast the holidays
Now for the answer to my not very well put question in my last column (What does San José have in common with New York and Paris?)
They were the first three cities to have electric streetlights. San José needed only 25 lights because it was a small city, the main part of which was Barrio Amón.  And that is where the street lights were and where Hotel Clarion is and why they named the restaurant Cafetal del Luz — it was built on land that once was a coffee plantation. The hydroelectric plant was in Barrio Aranjuez, just west of Hospital Calderón Guardia.  I don’t know whether the coffee plants were next to a lighted street or if the lights included buildings.  I am sure that both New York and Paris needed more than 25 streetlights.  The official history of the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz S.A. sets the date at Aug. 9, 1884.

My former hometown, San José, California, has the distinction of being the first city west of the Rockies to have electricity.  I won’t go into when and how. 

It is also true, as Desmond wrote, there is too much traffic in all three cities at this time, but come Christmas Day, all was quiet and peaceful — at least in San José. 

And some comments about the similarity between my choice of entrée (chicken breast) and the turtles’ diet (baby chicks). Shirley, who is a long-time reader and e-mailer didn’t like either choice since she has just become a vegan as the result of her love and concern for animals. 

I applaud Shirley, but I believe humans are naturally omnivores.  What we choose to eat or not eat is shaped by culture (just my idea, Shirley). And since we are part of the ecosystem, like sharks and polar bears, does our diet or change in diet affect the balance of that system in the same way the depletion of those animals that prevents them from consuming their normal diets does?  Just wondering.  I believe the population of wolves has increased, as has humans, so that same question might be asked in reverse.

One thing is apparent.  Over-consuming — eating more than is necessary to keep us alive and healthy — upsets our own ecosystems, unnecessarily reduces the food supply and probably deprives others of the nourishment they need to survive. 

On the subject of living in cages, although we think we   
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

are free to choose to live where we wish, sometimes our choice results in a necessity, or perceived necessity — like living behind bars for protection.

I still don’t like zoos, and agree with my friend, Ananbel.  It would be nicer to move the animals to more spacious quarters in Santa Ana and turn the Parque Bolívar into a botanical garden.

But enough of that.  I really wanted to tell you about a special cocktail for the Christmas season (but not if you are the designated driver).

Costa Rican mojito

One of my favorite drinks is a mojito.  Guaro is the locally produced alcohol that I also like and now have come upon a way to make a guaro mojito.  The most difficult part is preparing the mint.  One must make do with hierbabuena, the local mint.  What I do: Wash and separate the leaves from the stems. Put the leaves in a blender with the juice of one or two limes or a little water. Blend well, and pour into ice cube tray – as many cubes as it will fill.  Freeze.

Put a cube of frozen hierbabuena into a large wineglass.
Add  (1 1/2 ounces guaro
Juice of half a lime
1 TB sugar or packet of sweetner
2 or 3 cubes of ice
Fill the glass with club soda or carbonated mineral water
You can decorate the drink with a slice of lime and a leaf of hierbabuena, if you wish. I don’t bother with that.

As with all recipes I share with my readers, I test them carefully first — sometimes more than once. Perhaps you’ve already guessed that.

And for my editor, Jay Brodell:  This drink’s for you, a champion of local products.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 26, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 256

Casa Alfi
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Workers fill the molds to make
tapas de dulce,
the traditional way of bringing local sugar to market.

making tapas
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Ecotourism sugar mill operation expects big Jan. 1 crowd
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A pioneering ecotourism project in Santa Gertrudis Sur de Grecia said it expects about 2,000 visitors Jan. 1 for an annual celebration featuring music, dance and, of course, demonstrations of how to make sugar.

The location is the Finca Los Trapiches where the old fashion ways of crushing sugar cane and making a variety of sugar products attract hundreds on an average Sunday.

The finca has been a model sugar production facility for tourists for nearly 20 years, according to a press release. In 1980, the then-propritor,  Virgilio Araya, decided that tourism was more profitable than processing cane. The Jan.
1 festivities has been going on for 20 years. The finca remains in the family.

A trapiche in Costa Rican Spanish is the press that crushes the juice from sugar cane. A press operated by a mule or ox is on display in the Museo Nacional. But the press at  Finca Los Trapiches is a more modern hydraulic device made in 1865 in Scotland and used until more centralized and even more modern cane processing centers took over. Much of Costa Rica's cane becomes guaro, the clear alcohol made by the Fábrica Nacional de Licores.

The release from the finca said that there are more than 100 species of native plants growing there. An admission is charged. The finca is on the Volcán Poás road from Grecia.

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A.M. Costa Rica

users guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information

A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.


A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

Contacting us

Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us

Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

Once-blacklisted singer
Eartha Kitt dies at 81

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Singer and actor Eartha Kitt has died at the age of 81. Famous for her sultry voice and cat-like growl, she had been performing in nightclubs and on stage and screen for decades. Her purring, growling singing style first made her a star at the age of 22 until a political controversy in the 1960s destroyed her career in the United States for a time.

Film director Orson Welles called Eartha Kitt the most exciting woman in the world. Another admirer described her as "an arrangement to unhinge men's minds." Her appeal rested in her silky, electrifying voice, her cat-like face and body, and startling directness. On stage, she played the vamp, a sex tigress who stalked her audience. Off stage, she was a deeply private woman.

Eartha Mae Kitt was born into a poor, black family in rural South Carolina around 1928. She was the child of a rape. Her mother was only 14 years old. Eartha Mae was told her father was a white landowner in the area. When she was 8 years old, her mother married a man who did not want Eartha around. "The little yellow girl," he called her. Eartha ended up in New York with an aunt, and she often said the abandonment marked her forever.

When she was 16, Miss Kitt won a place in a well-known African-American dance company led by Katherine Dunham. As the troupe toured Europe, Miss Kitt's gift as a singer was discovered. Her droll, sexy nightclub act became a sensation in Paris. For some songs, she reclined on a red velvet couch. She had an ear for languages, and could sing in eight or nine.

When Miss Kitt was cast in the Broadway revue, "New Faces of 1952," she was suddenly famous back in her own country, too. She appeared on Broadway, made movies and starred as the original, definingly sinuous Catwoman in the Batman television series.

But in 1968, just as Eartha Kitt's career was at its peak, it crashed — and all because of a remark at a White House luncheon. The president's wife, Mrs. Lyndon Johnson, had invited Eartha Kitt with a group of other women to discuss the problem of youth crime. When Mrs. Johnson asked her guests for their thoughts, Miss Kitt raised her hand and spoke out against the war in Vietnam, where young black men were serving and dying in disproportionate numbers. Mrs. Johnson reacted with shock, blinking back tears, and the incident made headlines.

Years later, it was disclosed that President Johnson had immediately ordered investigations of Miss Kitt by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency. The entertainment industry responded to the inquiries by informally blacklisting her.

During most of the next 10 years, Eartha Kitt could find work only abroad. Not until the late 1980s did her American career begin to revive with parts in several Hollywood movies, and in 1996, a Grammy nomination for her first recording in years.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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