Lifestyle, Festivals, Arts, Entertainment

Cultural Ministry invites visitors to enjoy
two cultural festivals this weekend

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
As A.M. Costa Rica reported on Monday, this weekend there are two important cultural festivals.

The National Festival of Arts that started from Thursday in the city of Orotina* in the province of  Alajuela and will host more than 1,300 artists, with 80 shows and 280 free activities aimed at all audiences.

The activities of the festival will take place every day until April 7, in the city of 
Orotina* and the city of Esparza* in the province of Puntarenas.

The organizers expect hundreds of people who will enjoy spectacular music, theater, concerts, folkloric dances, special activities for children and typical foods.

The Ministry of Culture invites the public to visit the festival and to enjoy national and international artists producing a high quality event.

The other main cultural weekend event is the Traditional Food Fair known as "Gustico"

More than 200 chefs of typical Costa Rican food from 64 towns of the country will present their works at the 8th edition of the Costa Rican "Gustico" Fair, Friday to Sunday, from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m., at the National Stadium* in San José.

The Costa Rican term, "Gustico," means eating something delicious, a clue to what can be found at the fair.

The fair is open to the public and there will be 200 stands where artisans will offer their products. In addition to the typical dishes, visitors can enjoy folk music, buy crafts and learn more about tours to rural areas of the country.

National Festival of Arts courtesy photo

The organizers expect hundreds of people who will enjoy spectacular music, theater, concerts, folkloric dances, special activities for children and typical foods.

According to the organizers, this edition involves innovation in meals with new ingredients such as buffalo meat, edible wrappers made of honey, gourmet cheeses, goat milk products, gluten-free products, organic coffee, vegan ice cream, and handmade chocolates, among others.

The goal of the food fair is to promote the products of small businesses in rural areas.

What is your favorite typical Costa Rican food?  We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to:

*Link to reach the place.
-- Published March 29, 2019

Toxic relationships and how they affect our health

By Aleksander Pichkur
Editor at Jump For Love
Rosyth, Dunfermline, United Kingdom

As you may know, the presence of social ties in a person’s life positively affects their health and life expectancy. In general, this statement is true, but not when we’re talking about toxic or unsuccessful relationships. Anyone, who went through a painful divorce or was raised in a difficult family, will say that relationships can actually do a lot of harm to our body. We all have at least one person that makes us nervous all the time. Shouldn’t we do something about that?

What researchers say:

Scientists from the UK Social Service evaluated the quality of the relationship of 9,000 people. Subjects were interviewed about their relationship and various aspects that lead to negative experience in their personal life. In addition to that, researchers closely examined all participants’ health. Those who had more problems had a 34 percent higher risk of developing heart diseases, even after other factors, such as body weight and overall health, were taken into account. This is a fairly significant increase.

In another study, conducted at the Institute for Aging at Portland University, more than 650 adult participants were interviewed in a span of two years. The researchers found that long conflicts with other people were closely linked to serious health problems. Any type of stress, whether it’s a toxic relationship with a bad person or a responsible job, has a marked effect on the effectiveness of the immune system.

People have adapted to stressful situations and developed something called the conserved transcriptional response to adversity (or CTRA), associated with inflammatory processes and low immunity. For instance, if you were pursued by a predator, the CTRA would give you some useful short-term advantages, such as much faster healing and other survival perks.

Chronic stress can lead to your CTRA being constantly active, which, in its turn, causes inflammatory processes and health problems such as adrenaline fatigue.

How to recognize toxic relationships

Usually, people feel when their relationship is unhealthy, but toxic relationships are pretty tough to spot. This quick test will tell if your relationship harms your health.

After speaking to the person, whom you’re analyzing, check if you constantly feel the below-mentioned symptoms. (By “constantly” we mean that you feel them almost all the time. This is the key point).

- Exhaustion;

- Low self-esteem;

- Imbalance of what you give and get;

- Emotional or physical insecurity;

If you experience most of these symptoms, you are dealing with a toxic person.

Jump For Love courtesy photo   

How to cope with toxic relationships:

Set boundaries

It doesn’t matter whether you’re going to treat, support or end the relationship; you should still create new healthy boundaries between you and others. Another effective but radical way to exclude toxic people from your life is to completely change your surroundings. Some people even go to extremes by replacing their friends with people who live in distant countries or breaking up with their wives and finding Ukrainian brides thousands of miles away from home.

Create your inner circle of close people who value you and charge you with positive emotions all the time. The next layer of your circle should consist of those, who inspire you. The outer circle should consist of those who adversely affect you if you approach them too closely. Be kind, but stay away.

Create the environment you want

Just as toxic people harm your health, the opposite is also true. According to recent studies, people in a healthy relationship had lower blood pressure, and their bodies better regulated inflammatory processes.

Aleksander Pichkur is an international author who frequently writes on relationships, he can be reach at

Editor's note: The views or opinions expressed by the author, are the sole and exclusive responsibility of the sender and do not necessarily represent the opinion of A.M. Costa Rica, therefore, the newspaper does not accept liability for reader's opinion letter content.

-- Published July 02, 2018

Online Casinos in Philippines

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Online casinos have become popular across the world, nowhere more than in the Philippines, where there are a very large number of online casinos situated within the country.

The Philippines run a state owned licensing agency for running casinos. All controls are in hands of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation or PAGCOR. It is the only country in Asia that licenses online casinos.

Philippines online Casinos are considered a safe place for gambling, offering some peace of mind to the online player.

There are plenty of online casino sites available in the Philippines. Here is a list of some interesting sites that offer everything Philippine gamblers can dream of: Royal Panda -  Betsson Casino - Bet 365

How to deposit money in an online casino?

Online casinos offer a free play mode to their customers, which is an excellent way to get acquainted with online gambling. Depositing money is required if you would like to make some money. The online casino sites offer safe and secure payment methods.

Filipinos can use all credit cards, like Visa, MasterCard, and Maestro.  E-wallet like Neteller is a highly recommendable banking option as well. Skrill is considered as the second most popular e-wallet in the Philippines. Every casino site of Philippine listed on this page accepts Skrill, Neteller, and other card payments.

There are a few things to consider while looking for a suitable casino in the Philippines.

1) Legality – It is necessary to ensure that the casino is both licensed and accredited by PAGCOR or the Cagayan licensing authorities, depending on its location. Firstly, accreditation means that the casino has been crosschecked and its owners verified, so you have some level of security. Secondly, it’s illegal not to have a license for running a casino.

2) Payments – The payment and withdrawal structure should be the first things to check in order to make sure that they accept your method of payment.You must check on withdrawal fees as well because some casinos charge higher fees for some payment systems.

3) Games –Choosing a casino that includes all of your favorite games is important because a casino where you cannot play the games you want to is no good at all! Check out everything that is available before investing money in a casino.

4) Reviews – The first and foremost important thing is always worth checking. Reviews of the casino you have picked should be checked before playing in it.

Here are some facts about Philippine casinos you must know.

1) The Philippines is the only country in Asia to license Online Casinos. Gambling has become a part of the social culture. The casinos run well because the regulations are tight.

2)  The amount of money Filipinos spend on online gambling is 1.38 Billion Filipino Pesos a year. With the introduction of more online games for Filipinos to play, it will rise significantly over the coming years.
Top Online Casino courtesy photo   
When visiting recommended, user-friendly friendly Philippine Top Online Casino , you will come across the different types of bonuses.

3) Philweb, in partnership with PAGCOR, is the only one online Casino creator. Cagayan is host to most of the larger online casino companies which serve Asia and operate in an identical manner to the large international casinos.

4) There is a ban imposed on the online casinos in the Philippines to provide three games, Last Two, Jueteng and Masiao by law. They are free to provide any other game. There are over 250 variations of the slot machine games available in online casinos in the Philippines, making them by far the most played games.

5) These casinos must have enough capital to cover the casino’s obligations and require account balances and winnings to be paid promptly. This makes these licensed casinos very safe places to invest your money and makes them some of the most tightly regulated casinos around. For security and peace of mind, online casinos in the Philippines make a lot of sense.

As we can see, the Philippines offers an interesting choice for online casinos, providing a broad range of venues from within Cagayan Freeport or the PAGCOR regulated rest of the country.

With the tight regulation, the casinos here provide peace of mind and fair games, which are always good things to help make playing more enjoyable. Once you get the legal situation clear, and assess whether your facility will be approved by PAGCOR or the Cagayan Freeport authorities, you can find a plethora of great online casinos in the Philippines to enjoy, without worrying about if you can legally play them, or whether they are going to be around tomorrow and not run off with your money.

In terms of choice, for online casinos Cagayan is the place to go, all the big providers operate sites from the area and offer the same broad choice of games, offers, and bonuses as they do in other locations across the world.

More information about Top Online casino click here 

Editor's note: The views or opinions expressed by the author, are the sole and exclusive responsibility of the sender and do not necessarily represent the opinion of A.M. Costa Rica, therefore, the newspaper does not accept liability for reader's opinion letter content.

-- Published March 13, 2018

Ciclovida group hosting first bicycle
festival around Limón province

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Riding for fun, for health and also riding for their right to ride.

The Ciclovida group, headquartered in Puerto Viejo, is organizing the first Bicycle Festival this coming weekend as a way of attracting maximum support to their goal: the installation of bicycle lanes among the main beaches in the south Caribbean.

Ciclovida aims to turn Hone Creek, Manzanillo, Cocles and similar areas into villages where the primary method of transportation is the bicycle. As part of their festival, neighbors will have the chance to attend a series of recreational activities that will unite the community and strengthen their bonds.

On Friday, activities will start at 9:30 a.m. at the Puerto Viejo basketball court with games designed for students from the Manzanillo, Playa Chiquita, Cocles, Puerto Viejo, Hone Creek and Patiño schools. During the day, organizers also included other activities such as music, dance, drawing and a forum with municipal authorities and neighbors to discuss  the Pacification of Transportation in the Villages.

On Saturday, activities will start at 10 a.m. and will focus on workshops, for example to build and repair bikes and how to create bicycle-powered machines for different purposes. There will also be a fashion show on how to dress chic when riding a biking and two music venues.

Aside from the officials activities, the community is organizing a massive cycling event on Sunday to bring awareness on how much this means of transportations improve the lives of locals and attract tourism. These gatherings have already taken place a couple of times in the past and it has had a positive impact on both the villagers and the communities.

“We want proper bicycle lanes to ride with safety,” said Anja Ludewig, one of the participants. “It is now that we feel they are paying attention to us and authorities are approaching. We want our communities to remain based on alternative transportation.”
Cyclists on the go
Ciclovida photo     
Cyclists head to the streets in support of their rides.

Ciclovida photo     
Kid cyclist and his furry passenger enjoy the ride.

Sunday's cycling event will have two departing points. The first one will be at 8:30 a.m. at Maxi's Manzanillo and from Super Hone Creek. At the meeting in Playa Cocles, yoga for cyclists, music and the raffle of a new banana-type bicycle will welcome the participants.

--Sept. 27, 2017

Botica Solera historic building
receives new boon on life and culture

By the Rommel Téllez
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Built in 1930, the Botica Solera building stood high as an innovative art deco piece inspired by New York City’s famous Flatiron building.

Located in Barrio México, at the time where no big pharmacy chains existed, this was the place to look for remedies and medicines. In fact, botica is a not-so-used word meaning drugstore.

However markets changed and the business became unprofitable. The place was closed and abandoned in the midst of ownership disputes.

What once was a point of reference, had became pretty much a bunker, looted and squatted in by all kinds of homeless persons.

However, in 2013, the Municipalidad de San José took over and turned it into a cultural center where nowadays expositions, theater, concerts and meetings take place.

A little sparkle in the middle of one of San José's most dilapidated areas. The cost of remodeling was close to $600,000.

Today, the Botica Solera is the home to tens of cultural workshops every year, as well as a place where visual arts and graphic design are just a few steps away from residents of Barrio México. The results have been satisfactory, so much that more investment may come on the way.

According to the Municipalidad de San José press office, the citizens have acquired ownership of the space and its becoming a first contact for under-priviledged kids into the world or arts.

“There is a desire to strengthen its reputation as an accessible place, and the municipality seeks to increase the amount of activities mean for different profiles of the population,” said José Víquez, spokesperson for the municipality.
Botica prior
                        to renovation
Servicios Culturales MCJ photo     
Botica pre-renovation.
Servicios Culturales MCJ photo    
Botica Solera now.

Botica transformed
Sara Fishel courtesy photo             
Inside, the Botica building is transformed  into a community center.

As of now, the staff working there continue to attract new visitors every day and look for possible ways to make an artistic intervention without affecting the patrimonial regulations that protect the building from any future negligence.

--Sept. 27, 2017

Symphony orchestra concert features two U.S. citizens this Friday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional will, for the first time, include an organ as a solo instrument during its performance this coming Friday and a U.S. citizen will be the guest performer playing the organ. Meanwhile, another U.S. citizen will be directing.

A repertoire of French music composed such as “El corsario” by Héctor Berlioz and Symphony No. 3 with organ, Op. 78 by Camille Saint-Saëns will be ringing through the Teatro Popular Melico Salazar. There will also be the Concierto for organ by Francis Poulanc, according to José Manuel Roja, the historian and member of the orchestra.

Tickets for this concert will cost 10,000 colones for all seating arrangements, according to a statement from the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud. A fifty percent discount will apply to all those who present their student ID or senior citizen’s gold card at the sale areas. This is not available for the online purchases, gallery location and call center, the culture ministry said.

They can also be purchased the day of the concert at a special kiosk in the theater. Rehearsals began this past Tuesday with guest soloist Edward “Ned” Tipton and John Nelson directing.

Nelson was originally born in Costa Rica and has directed practically all the major orchestras in the United States and Europe, the culture ministry said. Throughout the years, both the orchestra and Nelson have maintained a professional relationship in the past decade.
Ned Tipton
St. John's Cathedral photo    
Edward Tipton.
John Nelson
International Classical Artists photo    
John Nelson.
These include: the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony, the London Symphony and the Orchestre de Paris.

Tipton is a native of North Carolina and began his first piano recital at the age of six. Shortly after, he learned to play violin, organ, trumpet, oboe and flute. He was given his first position as organist when he was 14. Since that time, he is currently the Canon for Music, a role similar to the organist and choir director, at St. John’s Cathedral in Los Angeles, California. Before that, he founded the Choral Society of Paris where he was music director for 16 years.

Tickets can be purchased by going HERE or by calling 2528-8778.

--August 23, 2017

There are plenty of options available to lose that holiday flab
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For some expats, the appropriate Christmas Carol might better be "The 12 Pounds of Christmas" because that is what they put on with all the holiday food and drink.

So as the year begins they look into the mirror and make resolutions to lose the weight, give up alcohol, reject cigarettes and become better persons.

About now, some 15 days into January, the resolutions are getting a little shaky.

But there are options.

Everyone knows about Weight Watchers, and there are similar programs in Costa Rica. Some will even make house calls for those who are shy about attending meetings for the overweight.

Those not ready to declare their weight-loss goals can go online to at least a dozen calorie-counting programs. A good list is HERE! Some, like My Fitness Pal, have Costa Rican members and the food menu contains plenty of local products found at Mas x Menos. The Mayo Clinic also maintains a nutritional site.

Nearly all such sites promote exercise, too. And the eternal spring of Costa Rica is a great place to get in shape. Parque la Sabana is perfect for a daily run, but many persons just do it on their own streets.

The country has formal races and fun runs, most as fundraisers, every month. There is the Tamarindo Marathon, the Christmas Run, the Carrera Playas del Coco and the famous Fundación Anna Ross walk and run against Cancer in October.

The organizer Evolution Marketing maintains a list of events on its Web page, and not all are in the Central Valley.

Most expats are not going to challenge a full marathon. They can enjoy a lesser distance or jogging and the socializing that follows.

Naturally before running someone seeking to lose weight should see a physician, and the doctor might have another option. The private hospitals have nutritionists on their staffs.
expats at beach
A.M. Costa Rica file photo                         
It was a very filling holiday!

Medical officials at the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social always are railing about the population being overweight, and that institution also provides nutritional services. There also are programs to quit smoking.

There are plenty of commercial establishments, too, offering pills and supplements for weight loss. In fact, the Ministerio de Salud from time to time orders that some of these products be withdrawn from sale.

Another option are the many gyms and private clubs in Costa Rica. In addition to exercise facilities, many offer organized sports even for older expats. This is a more expensive option that also includes socializing opportunities. Some who use the gym facilities say they do so because of the greater security that does not involve running outdoors.

Of course, all the weight loss methods involve a lifestyle change. And this not always is bad.

One woman expat took off more than 60 pounds simply by dancing salsa every morning in the privacy of her home.

Plus she stopped engaging in the favorite expat exercise of aerobic beer drinking. She noted correctly that exercise must be coupled with eating fewer and more healthy calories.

The most drastic method that a few expats may elect would be surgery, and the private hospitals and even the Caja offer such bariatric procedures.
— Jan. 15, 2016

Museo Nacional plans welcome home exhibition for artifacts

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museo Nacional plans to open an exhibition Wednesday to display pre-Colombian pieces that have been recovered from private hands and even from the garbage.

The welcome home exhibition runs until October. The 90 pieces include ceramics, jade and stone. The exhibition is called “El retorno de lo nuestro.”

The museum said that each of the pieces have a long history relating to their recovery. Costa Rican consulates were key players in some recoveries, the museum said.

Under Costa Rican law, such items belong to the government even if they are found on private property. Some pieces were confiscated from person leaving the country.

A metate, a small table for grinding grain, turned up in a garbage container perhaps because the holder was afraid of legal repercussions, said the museum.

Museum officials have been in the news confiscating archaeological objects from private homes. Many Costa Rican homeowners have family collections, and some pre-date the law giving the government possession.

Objects were obtained in Houston, Texas, Tucson, Arizona, Washington, D.C., Miami, Florida, Los Angeles, California, Canada, Spain, France and Italy, the museum said.

Even though some pieces have been in museum hands for some time, none has been
exhibited previously, the announcement said. Some are very large, it added.

The more spectacular pieces probably are the product of the 
  Guanacaste culture where the descendants of pre-Colombian
Museo Nacional photo                           
The museum said it recovered this owl
from the United States.

residents continue to make ceramics for export. They use many of the same molds and clay deposits that have been used for centuries.

Costa Rican ceramics were used in the Mayan and Valley of México cultures.

The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday. Admission for Costa Ricans is 1,500 colons, about $3. Foreigners pay $8. Sunday is a free day for Costa Ricans and legal residents, the museum noted.

—May 26,2015

Financial decision-making for seniors tied to experience,
study says

By the Columbia Business School news staff

Growing older leaves many with a gloomy prognosis, namely that cognitive aging will slow the mind and the ability to make decisions. However, when it comes to making financial decisions, many baby boomers would be pleased to know that experience, knowledge, and expertise can compensate for the challenges that age-related deterioration present in finance, according to new research from Columbia Business School in New York..

The study, “Sound Credit Scores and Financial Decisions Despite Cognitive Aging,” recently published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found evidence that crystallized intelligence, which is gained through experience and accumulated knowledge, can be more important that fluid intelligence, the ability to think logically and process new information.

“Our research shows that cognitive decline is real, but does not spell doom for making financial choices,” says Eric Johnson a professor at Columbia Business School and co-author of the study. “An alternative route to making sound financial decisions comes from experience — and that improves with age.”

According to the U. S. Census Bureau projections, the number of Americans 65 and older will more than double by the year 2050. Policy changes (e.g. defined contribution retirement plans, such as 401Ks) puts more complex decisions in the hands of individuals, and those 65 and older may find these financial decisions increasingly challenging. The research suggests guidelines for future policy makers to help those 65 and older with these complex financial decisions.

“With the proliferation of self-directed benefit plans and the demise of traditional pensions, those who have accumulated wealth over their lifetime face even greater challenges and more responsibility when managing their finances than the older population of previous generations,” said Elke Weber, also a professor and co-author of the study. “One way to improve financial decisions across lifespan is to reduce the reliance on fluid intelligence by limiting decision options, or allowing decision makers to sort options.”

In a four-part, Web-based study, researchers assessed the cognitive ability and economic preferences of 478 U.S. residents between the ages of 18 and 86. The study included a battery of cognitive, decision-making, and demographic measures. Researchers then leveraged a unique data set combining measures of cognitive ability and knowledge with credit scores, a measure of credit-worthiness that reflects sustained ability for sound financial decision-making. This dataset allowed researchers to explore whether knowledge and expertise accumulated from past decisions could offset age-related declines in cognitive ability.

“It can be misleading to only assess the effect of age on decision quality,” said Johnson. “Policy makers and future researchers should also examine the distinct roles of decreasing cognitive abilities and increasing but eventually plateauing domain-specific knowledge and expertise when developing tools for the aging population.”

Researchers believe that age-specific decision aids and interventions that build on conduits to good decisions will not only produce better outcomes for older individuals, but also reduce potentially large costs to society.
—  Jan. 16. 2015

m asks
Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural photo              
These are some of the masks that are on display in downtown San José
Traditional art form is subject for a heritage contest
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Masks probably are as old or older than modern humans. In Costa Rica they are considered an art form.

The Día de la Mascarada Tradicional Costarricense Oct. 31 puts a national spin on the U.S. Halloween. The day was established by a presidential decree in 1996. There will be parades and demonstrations of masks all over Costa Rica.

The masks that are seen today came with the Spanish, even though the various native groups have had their own traditions.

The Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural is honoring the Costa Ricatradition of making these mask with a contest and

masks again
Centro de Investigación y Conservación         
del Patrimonio Cultural photo         
Themes can be from life or afterwards.
an exhibit that ends appropriately Oct. 31.
There are 112 masks on display at the offices of the Centro opposite Librería Lehmann on the downtown San José pedestrian walkway.

They will be there all month, and there are plans to take them around the country afterwards.

The Centro said that there are 58 large masks and 54 smaller ones. Mask creators compete in three categories based on the length of time they have been making them.

The Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud in a release, quoted Isabel Badilla saying that one reason for the contest is to diminish the traditional notion that masks are associated with violence and alcohol.

She said masks are for enjoyment, not for fighting or alcohol.  She is directing the competition.
The contest also is to bring the public closer to the artists, she said.

The masks also have a political dimension. At least recently various public figures have been used as models for masks. However, mainly youngsters dressed in masks and flowing clothing are visible all over the county in festivities with the also traditional street bands.

Some of the creators of the masks have been reported to have used recycled materials.

ceramics in Washington
From the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian
Nicoya pottery is well represented in the Washington, D.C., exhibition.
Costa Rica's ancient artisans getting their due in Washington
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country's prehistoric past is getting major exposure in Washington, D.C.  The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and the Smithsonian Latino Center have an exhibit running until Feb.1, 2015 that spotlights Central America pre-Hispanic cultures.

The emphasis of “Cerámica de los Ancestros: Central America’s Past Revealed,” as the name suggests, is on the pottery left by the cultures. But there is much more. Couple with the exhibit is a book edited by archaeologist Rosemary A. Joyce, of the University of California at Berkeley. She has been conducting fieldwork in Honduras since 1977.

Her thesis is that Central American cultures have been under
rated because they did not create giant and unsustainable cities like the Mayans and other cultures.

"Outstanding works of art force us to acknowledge that links existed from the Nicoya peninsula of Costa Rica to the Ulúa Valley in Honduras, and from there to Belize and Guatemala," she said in the book, "Revealing Ancestral Central America."

Costa Rica's other major archaeological sites outside the Nicoya peninsula also have strong representations. Of course, there are the stone spheres from the
Figure of a woman
Greater Nicoya female figure 800-1350 A.D.
southern Pacific coast. Las Mercedes on the campus of University Earth in Guácimo, Limón, is represented as well as the enigmatic Guayabo de Turrialba.

"It is evident that people of pre-16th-century Central American societies lived in a visually rich, materially luxurious, world, said Ms. Joyce. She also said that even in farmers homes excavations uncovered colorful ceramic pots and bowls.

The area around San Vicente de Nicoya is filled with small workshops where residents produce ceramics in much the same way their ancestors produced the pieces that are on display in Washington.

In fact, the Ecomuseo de la Cerámica Chorotega there organizes the Festival de las Nimbueras every year to honor the artisans who work with clay to produce masterpieces.

Pottery making there has been continuous for at least 4,000 years.

The Washington exhibition draws on the extensive holdings of
From the collection of the Smithsonian’s
National Museum of the American Indian
Greater Nicoya bowl with human and harpy eagle design.

12,000 pieces at the Smithsonian, but many similar pieces are on display here in the Museo de Jade, the Museos del Banco Central and the Museo Nacional, not to mention the museum in Nicoya about 17  kilometers southeast of Santa Cruz.

However, the bilingual exhibit in Washington outlines a trade network and cultural similarities among the inhabitants of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panamá.

Together, these objects span the period from 1000 B.C. to the present and illustrate the richness, complexity and dynamic qualities of Central American civilizations that were connected to peoples in South America, Mesoamerica and the Caribbean through social and trade networks that shared knowledge, technology, artworks and systems of status and political organization, said the museum.

“This is our first major exhibition that examines our remarkable Central American collection, which is world class based on its sheer size and the fact that these are whole and intact objects,” said Kevin Gover, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in a release. “It also marks the first time that we have created a bilingual exhibition that will increase our scholarship and outreach to an entirely new audience.”

Ms. Joyce also makes the point in her book that much of the early archaeology cites in Central America have been lost due to landslides, river erosion and construction even by later Indian groups. She notes that there is evidence that there were inhabitants here at least  9,000 years ago. She is supported in that view by a site just over the line in Panamá in the Parque Internacional La Amistad that has been dated at least that old.

A sampling of the works on display in Washington is HERE!

There are ways to beat those soaring expenses here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As the government imposes new taxes and utility rates go up, more and more expats complain about prices.

A quick trip through a supermarket shows products priced two or three times of what they cost in the United States.

Filling the tank of a vehicle can be a $100 experience with gasoline at more than $5 a U.S. gallon.

Some expats who came with the impression that life would be cheaper in Costa Rica are considering relocating.

Those pensionados who gained residency with a $600 a month income under the prior immigration law are being hammered.

But there is an option that has been used repeatedly during tough times. And that is doing it yourself. Today there are extensive articles and videos on the Internet designed to help viewers beat high prices.

A.M. Costa Rica columnist Jo Stuart advocates public transportation and shopping at the weekly open-air markets, the ferias. But not all the options can be found there.

There is a long tradition in Anglo-American history of growing food and recycling discards when times get tough. The works of Henry David Thoreau promoting simple livng is known to most readers. Anyone old enough to remember the Great Depression understands these techniques. Then there was World War II when loose lips sank ships and those who stayed behind turned to home gardens and perhaps a few chickens. These individuals would be in their 70s and 80s now.

After the war there was a migration to the cities and urban life, so the number of persons growing up learning handy ways on a farm declined.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s a back to the land movement, perhaps generated by hippies, brought renewed interest on low-cost ways of self-sufficiency. The old standard, the 1943 book "The Have More Plan," was reprinted and circulated. This is still available today either in paper or as a free ebook download.

Ed and Carolyn Robinson's wartime outline of a mini-farm is correctly called a classic.

The year 1968 saw the birth of "The Whole Earth Catalogue," the uninitiate's guide to self-sufficiency and rural gadgets.

Two years later, John and Jane Shuttleworth came out with the monthly Mother Earth News four months before the first Earth Day. Not only did the magazine give detailed instructions on such skills as beekeeping, small motor repair and raising chickens, it also fanned the flames of the growing ecological movement. The anti-government survivalist movement picked up on the trend.

Expats frequently are warned that buying First World products is a budget buster. But they did not come to Costa Rica to be condemned to a diet of rice and beans.
have More
 1944 ad for "The Have More Plan" featuring a
  drawing of a wartime mini-farm

Can you help?

A.M. Costa Rica would like to hear from expats who are successfully cutting corners. A photo or two would be helpful to show others the technique.  And any special tips specific to Costa Rica would be welcome. For example, one expat constructed a roof over his raised garden bed to prevent a washout by tropical rains.

Send them to

A trip through supermarkets that are approaching monopoly status can be frightening: $8 for a box of breakfast cereal, $2 cans of beer, $7 blocks of cheese, a $3 loaf of bread, $6 cans of soup and $10 for six frozen sausages.

Plenty of expats already have found their farm home and are busy raising their own foods and livestock. For those who have not done so, YouTube is a treasure of cost-saving ideas.

Detergent is cheap to make with easily available chemicals. Manufacturers add some perfume and bright packages. Then they advertise heavily and slap on a high price. Dozens of YourTube videos show how to make $240 worth of liquid detergent for about $9. And the process is not that hard. The main ingredient is a bar of soap.

A BBC series even instructs viewers on using natural products to replace expensive drugs. Countless videos have tips on low-cost meals. Then there is the video showing how to make three cases of beer for about $7. There are similar videos on wine making, although some of the ingredients might have to be bootlegged into the country. A country so full of fruit would seem to be a great place to experiment.

Expats can search these videos to learn a new skill, sewing, for example, and trade their free time for home-made products. How about a hair-cutting tutorial? Internet searches can amplify what appears on the videos

There even are dozens of videos cataloged under the general term of saving money. Plus there are segments that can put viewers into a home craft business.
— May 14, 2013

leaping lizards
A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
Crazy Jimmy is a professional. Don't try this at home!
Up close and personal with the Río Tárcoles crocodiles
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rio Grande de Tárcoles is the habitat for various types of wildlife including hundreds of American crocodiles.

The beasts are one of the largest of the crocodiles and can grow up to 6 meters in length and have a recognizable V-shaped snout. 

Tourists and locals line the bridge on the coastal highway to get a glimpse of the large animals that can be found down below sunbathing.

Those who want a closer look can arrange tours.  Guides take persons out on the river where the creatures swim just a few feet from the riverboats.

One such tour is Jose’s Crocodile River Tour, which was founded six years ago by José Eduardo Chaves.

Chaves said he and his staff grew up in the area around the tours and decided to start their own.  He serves as a bilingual guide who entertains patrons for two hours with facts and funny anecdotes.

He points out different bird species such as the kingfisher, egrets and spoonbills and whistles for the crested caracara, which comes to feed on chicken pieces thrown in its direction.

“You have to whistle in Spanish,” Chaves jokes.

He also draws his tourist’s focus to the many iguana that are on the shorelines.

“Over here we have iguana condominiums,” he says.  “They all have riverfront properties.”

The main attraction comes minutes into the tour, when Chaves spots the first crocodile. 

The boat is brought close to the creature so those on the tour can take pictures.

Then the driver, known as Crazy Jimmy, jumps out of the boat with raw chicken in hand.  He lures the crocodile toward him .
Tarcoles bird
A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
Crested caracara and offspring await chicken treats.

by smacking the water with the chicken

“It makes the crocodile think the chicken is live,” said Chaves.

Once Jimmy has the crocodiles full attention, he dangles the chicken out from him at which point the crocodile jumps up to catch the meat as Jimmy throws it in its mouth.

“He swallows it bones and all,” said Chaves.

Crazy Jimmy feeds several different crocodiles who the men named after pop stars such as Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Selena Gómez.  At one point of the tour, Jimmy even kisses one of the large beasts. 

“I’m not afraid, because I have many years doing this,” Jimmy says.  “I really love it.  It’s my job.”

Due to the territorial nature of the crocodiles, they are always seen in the same area of the river, awaiting the Jose’s Crocodile River Tour’s crew’s next visit.

The dock for the crew is located in Tárcoles, about an hour and a half from San José and 30 minutes from Jacó.  For more information visit the Web site at

Eastwood as baseball scout stars in a father-daughter drama
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Hollywood veteran Clint Eastwood finds a new curmudgeon to play in a film set behind the scenes of professional baseball.

In "Trouble With the Curve," Gus Lobel knows more about scouting new talent for baseball teams than anyone else in the business; but his failing eyesight and old-fashioned attitudes may end his storied career.

"You're talking about one of the best scouts baseball has ever seen," the character Pete tells the team manager.

"With all due respect, Pete, the game has changed. We need somebody to keep up with the times," the manager responds. "Gus couldn't even turn on a typewriter, let alone a computer. Look, we all hate to think it, but he may be ready for pasture."

Thanks to a longtime ally in the front office, Gus has one more chance to prove his value; but he is surprised when his daughter Mickey, an attorney, shows up on the scouting trip.

Director Robert Lorenz says fixing that strained family relationship is at the heart of "Trouble With the Curve."

​​​​"It is definitely a relationship movie set in the world of baseball. It's a movie with classic themes that everyone can enjoy. It's things that you're familiar with, yet we visit them in a fresh and original way," Lorenz explains.

Clint Eastwood, now 82, said he was done acting after 2008's "Gran Torino." But he is back on screen in the starring role and, for the first time in almost two decades, not also directing the film.

"After 'Gran Torino'" I thought it's just kind of stupid to be doing both jobs," Eastwood says.  "I've only been doing it
Clint Eastwood
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. photo
Clint Eastwood in his role as a baseball scout.

for 40-some years and I thought maybe I should just do one or the other to allow myself a bit of a comfort zone."

Amy Adams co-stars as daughter Mickey.

"This was a lot of fun playing a contemporary character . . . someone I could have been friends with, has a lot of the same issues that I have. So that was a great challenge because I felt really exposed and vulnerable playing someone so similar to myself, but at the same time a great opportunity to explore a father-daughter relationship. You don't see that a lot in films," Ms. Adams notes.

"Trouble With the Curve" is the first produced screenplay by writer Randy Brown. The cast features Justin Timberlake as a young scout who becomes part of Mickey's and Gus's lives.

John Goodman plays the team executive concerned for his aging friend.
—Jan. 4, 2013

A grandfather tells the Tico version of a ghost story to youngsters in an illustration accompanying the Mitos y Leyendas stamp issue. Framed, the stamp set would make an interesting present for those who need a little encouragement to stay away from strong drink, strange women or profane drivers of carretas.

Postage stamps
Illustrations by Heriberto Barrientos A.

Tico legends are depicted in stamp issue in time for Halloween
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Halloween is not really a Costa Rican tradition even though youngsters go wild that night, block streets and set trash afire.

So maybe it is just coincidence that the national postal service has come out with a set of scary stamps.

The issue is designed to mark U.N. World Post Day, the anniversary of the Universal Postal Union. Correos de Costa Rica chose two legends to immortalize on stamps. The are La Segua and La Carreta sin Bueyes.

Both legends are at least from the 18th century but the theme is universal: To terrify those who would drink, pick up strange women or curse God.

La Segua is the beautiful woman whose face changes at a key moment from that of a damsel to that of a female horse. The legend is so well known that there even is a local beer named after her.

The Carreta sin Bueyes is not the taxi an expat wants. One popular version takes place in Escazú where the driver of an oxcart, a carreta, has a running feud with the local priest. To emphasize his point, the oxcart driver prods his oxen or bueyes onto the church steps with the goal of barging into the holy
place. The well-brought-up bueys balk and eventually end up in buey heaven. The profane driver of the carreta is turned over to Satan Lucifer and must spend the nights traveling through the streets of the Central Valley with a self-propelled ox cart. One image of this phantom cart shows a giant hand in the place where the oxen should be, and that is the propulsion system. The driver remains in a casket in back.

Correos de Costa Rica stopped short of recreating this grim picture. The 485-colon stamp shows an empty cart scaring the wits out of a Tico as it patrols the streets.

The set of stamps, illustrated by Heriberto Barrientos A., shows a grandfather recounting the legends to enthralled youngsters. The horse-faced Segua is pictured along with Cadejos, a demon dog that is the subject of yet another legend. Each of the two stamps is placed near a short explanation of its legend. The La Segua stamp carries a value of 385, so the set is worth 870 colons or about $1.76.

The postal service made 15,000 stamp sets with 500 first-day covers. The demon dog shows up again on the special cancelation.
Just about every Costa Rican knows these legends. The stamp set is available at local post offices or the special collector's window downtown. The stamps also are available online.
— Published Oct. 22, 2012

Blues Latino performers together again after a three-year layoff
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sometimes a break for life reflection is necessary, explained Mariam Jarquín, lead singer of Blues Latino.  After a three-year hiatus, the group will return with a live performance at the Jazz Cafe de San Pedro Thursday.

"All this time we were out as a group was an era that helped me to rethink many elements as a person, as a woman, as a mother and as an artist," Ms. Jarquín said. "After spending not only quantity but also quality time with my daughter, I felt, again, enormous desires for singing, something to which I have dedicated my life again."

The journey of this group began in October 1999, when Ms. Jarquín and pianist and accordionist Héctor Murillo began to perform as a duo in different places and private events.

Shortly thereafter, the duo started performing as a group which led to an invitation to be part of the 14th edition of the Curacao Jazz Festival held in 2001. At this venue Blues Latino was born.

The band is comprised of Héctor Murillo on piano and
accordion, Carlos Pardo on bass, Ronny Ugalde on saxophone and flute, Pepe Chacón on percussion and Javier Chaves on drums.

Their music repertoire is composed of Latin American popular music and original songs.  In the debut performance, they will play several unreleased tracks including "Agua, fuego, lava y mar," and "Cosa bella."  Both are original songs of Murillo, musical director of Blues Latino.

Three special guests from Academia de Música Moderna, will accompany Latin Blues.  The academy is a institution run for more than 20 years by Ms. Jarquin and bassist Pardo.

The guests are singers Marisela Gallegos and Carlos Fernández and guitarist Francisco Vargas.

So far, Blues Latino has released three albums.  The third, “No hay palabras,” included  jazz, bolero, swing, bossanova, and Caribbean rhythms.

Currently the group plans to record a fourth album, to be released in 2013.
— Oct. 9. 2012

Spanish photographer documents life and legends in Haiti
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The spiritual as well as everyday life of the Haitian people will travel from the lens of Spanish photojournalist Luis Alcalá del Olmo to Museo Nacional through an exhibition which opens today.

“Haití: los espíritus de la tierra,” consists of 80 of the photographer's pictures.  They provide close shots of faces, gestures, expressions and landscapes to tell the many stories of the Haitian people.

In the collection, 44 large format pictures illustrate six different Voodoo rituals practiced by Haitians.

One of these voodoo Laos or spirits is Baron Samedi.  Usually shown wearing dark glasses, a top hat and tuxedo, he is a Voodoo spirit of the dead and is called upon to heal those in chronic stages. Another is Erzulie Freda, a goddess of love and wealth. She is thought to bring good fortune to those which serve her. 

The other 36 photos show the effect of the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake.  This 7.0 magnitude disaster killed more than 300,000 people and rendered around 1,000,000 others homeless.  Many of these people still live in relief tents put up two years ago.

Alcalá was born in Madrid, Spain, and began his professional career as a freelance photographer for various international news agencies in South America and the Caribbean, said museum spokespersons.

Throughout his 20-year career as a photojournalist, he documented numerous political and cultural events.  He has received numerous awards for human interest and visual anthropology from National Geographic, the U.N. Children's
Haitian woman
One of the photos in the exhibit

Fund and the Overseas Press Club,  they added.

The photo exhibit will be available until Jan. 6. The cost is 1,500 colons, but students and children under 12 years get in free. Sunday admission is free to the public.
— Oct. 5, 2012

Petroglyphs ong
Representative works are seen with the original glyph that inspired the painting.
Early Costa Ricans are the influence for modern interpretations
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Native groups in early Americas were artists, too. They used stone to express themselves. What they hoped to say has been lost to the ages, but a group of 25 artists have recreated some of the ancient work in time for a show that opens Saturday.

The show is "The Petroglyphs of the Orosí Volcano: The Hidden Messages of Ancestral and Contemporary Art."

Said the Hidden Garden Gallery, where the show is to open:

" . . . a group of 25 leading artists have studied and researched these artifacts and were inspired to transform them into visual arts. Recreating original interpretations, and developing new interpretations, the artists hope to perpetually document these relics, which are becoming endangered, and are not easily seen by the Costa Rican communities and tourists."

Participating artists include: Fernando Carballo, Otto Apuy, Florencia Urbina, Emanuel Rodríguez, Leda Astorga, Ana Elena Fernández, Aurelio Vidor, Carlos Hiller, Roberto Lizano, Fabio Herrera, Mario Maffioli, Claudio Vidor, José Jackson  Guadamuz, Rebeca Alvarado Soto, Jonathan Torres, Shi Chang,
Original glyphs
These are original glyphs from the volcano.

Adela Marín, Priscila Aguirre, Angel Lara, Karen Clachar, Sussy Vargas, Juan Carlos Ruiz, Norma Varela, Gabriela García, and Ricardo Alfieri.

Hiller and Ms. Alvarado have organized the show. The show opens at 10 a.m. at the gallery, which is five kilometers west of the Daniel Oduber airport.

Petroglyphs date back at least 15,000 years, but the ones at the Orosi volcano are believed to be about 1,500 years old. That is still well before the arrival of the Europeans to Costa Rica. The glyphs here are more complex than many elsewhere. The feature fish, stylized animals and even what appears to be a shaman.

The artist were influenced by the original glyph and then created their own work.
— Sept. 242, 2012

frogs crossing
Sherry Heinl's
'Frog Crossing'

massai dream
Joan Hall's
'Maasai Dreams'

Roman carnival
Estilita Grimaldo's
'Roman Carnival'
Chairs turned into art are centerpiece of Women's Club auction
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rica Women's Club calls it chairs for charity.

Some 55 artists from the Costa Rican and expat communities created stunning works of art from ordinary chairs and some tables.

The 60 chairs and other items will be auctioned off at the club's Night at the Museum & Sensational Chair Auction Sept. 1, a Saturday, in the national gallery of the Museo de los Niños in north San José.

The auction also features airline tickets, hotel accommodations, dinner packages and other premiums.

Music for the event will be provided by Editus, the country's top group and a winner of a Grammy three times. There also 
will  be complimentary bocas and wine supplied by restaurants and distributors who support the group, the club said.

A preview of the chairs can be seen HERE!
The evening is a fundraiser for the Women's Club's educational activities, which include scholarships. Tickets are available at 15,000 colons by calling 8916-9525, 2268-0975, or by visiting

The Women’s Club of Costa Rica is a philanthropic organization supporting education, primarily through scholarships and development of school libraries for children in Costa Rica. Founded in 1940, it is one of the oldest, continuously operating service organizations in Costa Rica.   The club’s English-speaking membership boasts over 300 women of all ages from all over the world, drawn together by the motto of Friendship through Service, the club said.
— Aug. 21, 2012

The basic rule of dancing salsa: Never forget to be happy
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The palm of my hands were already moist when I stepped onto the dance floor Monday night for my first salsa lesson in years.

Arriving on Tico-time, I walked into a weekly dance lesson at a language school to find about 25 fellow Gringos and Gringas had started to learn basic steps and also those of the mambo and cumbia. Just like back home in the States, the women outnumbered the men about three to one.

Although I walked in with confidence from the Latin dance lessons I had taken in the past, my German ancestors had only equipped me with a dance moves necessary for a polka and the rhythm necessary to walk in time with a march. More complicated steps and rhythms have always been a challenge.

I tiptoed past the other students into the far corner of the classroom converted into a salsa dance club. There I could catch up without being seen by the rest of the group.

“I just see feet shuffling around,” said our Tica instructor, Jessica Cascante, who appeared to be looking for a more gentle way to observe our progress on a new quickstep that she was teaching but gave up and put it bluntly.

Ms. Cascante, 23, has been dancing to seemingly every Latin rhythm since she was 13 years old, and now doubles as a dance instructor, usually out of her own home, and as a self-employed fashion designer.

Although Ms. Cascante studied to be a fashion designer, becoming a salsa teacher was something thrust upon her.

“At my 16th, I started going out with my friends, and people started asking me about classes, so I first had two or three people, then I had groups of people asking at my house about it,” she explained in an email. “So that's how I did it . . .  and people liked it.”

After an hour of teaching the steps, Ms. Cascante coupled off her students, and several more men trickled into the room.

With all of the elegance of pre-teens at a junior high dance, the men and women had been separated on two sides of the room when Ms. Cascante told them to find a partner.

I ran into a young American named Kiara and we agreed to dance together out of convenience.

“Men: place your hand firmly on her shoulder-blade and keep your elbows up,” Ms. Cascante said, looking around the room.

“No,” she said when her gaze fell on Ms. Kiara and me. “More like here,” she said as she walked over, grabbed my hand and firmly it placed on the center of Ms. Kiara’s back, pulling me six inches closer to my partner.

From there, a dozen or so couples tried to put our newly learned steps into practice with varying degrees of success.

“I need to stop trying to lead you,” Ms. Kaira told me as we attempted to move time after time.

Eventually we sought help from Ms. Cascante, who eventually began leading me in order to demonstrate the importance of keeping a firm arm to not only clearly signal to my partner where to go, but also to guide her movements.

I later learned that Ms. Cascante earned first place in the Costa Rica Salsa Open in 2010, and occasionally still competes with her partner. Her exploits on the dance floor
Salsa dancing

are plain to see by simply typing her name into a YouTube search.

After about 45 minutes, she cut the music and called for us to wrap up, but she invited all of us to come to El Observatorio in Barrio California, not her favorite place to go except on Mondays when the bar has live salsa music by Madera Nueva.

“I'm a salsa lover,” said Ms. Cascante. “So I prefer live bands.”

On weekends, she prefers Pepper Disco Club in Zapote,
where she says there are two or three salsa orchestras per night, or to the Jazz Club in San Pedro. Some of her other favorites include places like Fiesta Latina in El Pueblo, La Puerta de Alcalá in San Rafael de Heredia, Casa Zeller north of the Guacamaya traffic circle in San José, and La Rumba Disco Club in Belén.

However, for newer Gringos she recommends starting off with Salsa en Linea en Costa Rica at either the Centro de Artes Promenade or Rincón Salsero.

“It would be better to join with some people and start together if we're talking about foreigners,” she said. “I would say Pepper's is been a good spot for Gringos to meet Ticos, but it's better in groups, because normally people go there together with friends, although they're really friendly.”

As for finding good salsa music on the radio, Ms. Cascante says that Gringos and Ticos alike are out of luck except for one hour on Saturdays, starting at noon on 89.1 FM a distant second choice is 95.1.

Whether practicing at home, taking lessons with other Gringos or diving in with the locals at a club, Ms. Cascante says to practice, but more over to relax and have fun – the rest will come with time.

“Enjoy it, don't get frustrated if something doesn't look like you wish, keep trying and it will!” she said. “Practice, practice, practice, hear the music and try to feel it with your body, watch tons of videos, go out and look at people, and never forget to be happy!”
— Originally published June 28, 2012

A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
At the supermarket or just somewhere along the street, locals seek renters.
A newcomers guide to finding a reasonable apartment in the city
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

You are fresh off the plane, umbrella in hand for the rainy season and awe struck by the towering mountainous skyline: A true Gringo ready to make the best of the Costa Rican Pura Vida motto.  Now what?

When thinking of moving to a new country, the first question to ask is "Where do I live?" Many find the task of searching for a home or apartment daunting. However, with the right tools, it doesn't have to be.

Here is my findings as I journeyed across San José on the apartment hunt.

The cyber world

The world tells you anything you want can be found in the classifieds.  This generation knows the Internet is the place to begin any search, especially if you don't have any knowledge of the area. Combine them both together and you end up with Craigslist.  The Costa Rican Craigslist has updated listings everyday from individuals and businesses.  Prices for apartment and room rentals are listed along with contact numbers. Use pictures and Web sites, as well as personal judgement to weed out the creepies and choose what is trustworthy. 

The local English-language publications, and, also have specific sections for rentals.  Real estate agents advertise here, so the rent can be costly.

The truth is, no one knows the area better than the Ticos or long-time residents.  Forums such as Costa Rican Living on Yahoo allows you to post a question, and local expats will respond with questions.  Also sites like and will allow you to send direct messages individuals who share your interest of travel. With luck, they may have a room to rent.

The streets

Once you have overloaded your brain with information, scribbled down countless phone numbers and addresses, accessed every site possible, and ruled out things that does not fit your budget, it's time to get out in the streets and explore your options.  However, before you unleash yourself to the Costa Rican wild, there are two important things you should know.  The first, addresses are given by landmarks and not street signs.  Coincidently, streets are not marked at every intersection, but with signs sporadically placed on businesses.  This means unless your map gives you sodas instead of calles, you will get lost. 

The other thing to know is "walk signs" are few, and to cross the street you must put yourself out there and hope you don't get hit.
Online sources are great but some are dangerous.

While walking the streets, it's useful to stop at supermarkets and check telephone poles for locals advertising rooms.  Also, at language schools you can find host family options or check with students to see if they are looking for people to share space.

The bottom line

The hierarchy of places to live by price runs hotel, apartment, hostels, room in a house.  Each place offers you the basics: a bed, lights, water, wifi and cable.  Breakfast can be included depending on the place, and usually laundry for $10 extra. That's way more than you can ever have in the States, so you are already in a good situation.

My findings show that the average place will cost you around $400 a month.  If willing to share your space, and use a little charm, you can get the price down to around $250 at a hostel. Most places are willing to negotiate, because their bookings are down, and they need to fill space.  For example, newly opened Hostel Urbano in San Pedro had less than 10 borders Tuesday.  The bright side to that is you may be able to pay a dorm price, and get a room to yourself. The lowest price for a room was $150 a month. That had a shared bath.

Hostels may sound scary, but in retrospect they can be quite cosy.  For example, Kaps Place in San José features rooms with vibrant colors and an atmosphere that owner Karolina Bermúdez V. refers to as "like family."  Also, Pangea in downtown San José features a rooftop pool and restaurant.

Use your instinct, follow your signs, and don't be afraid to talk.  As consumer, the ball is always in your court. 
— Initially published June 20, 2012

Leafcutters will be the featured insect on a new Web page
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Everyone has seen these hard-working ants lugging single file pieces of leaves back to the nest to provide fodder for their fungus farm.

Now the little guys will have their own Web page called that will contain information and photos for all levels of studies, according to the Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología.

Zompopa is the Spanish name for the leafcutter ant, called scientifically Atta cephalotes. They are universal in Costa Rica, and sometimes too universal because many gardeners are unhappy to see their plants and trees stripped. Each nest may contain 5 million of the critters, so they can do a lot of stripping quickly.

The Web page actually crew out of a project to control the ants at the Monumento Nacional Guayabo near Turriallba, said the ministry which will announce the Web page Thursday in conjunction with the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Tecnológicas at the Universidad de Costa Rica.
Adrián PintoTomás is the researcher who was out to remove the leafcutters from the monument because the insects were doing damage. He created a bioproduct to eliminate the ants but also recognized the tourist value of the ant colonies nearby, said the ministry. His work is presented of the Web site.

Right now the site is password protected because it will not go public until  Thursday. The logo features a leafcutter ant carrying the name of the site as if it were a leaf fragment.

Florida Ice & Farm gave support to the project.
— Initially published June 19, 2012

Local artist will show how he captured beaches and beauty
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican artist Hernan Peréz Peréz will bring his unique vision of the country's beaches and vegetation to a show that opens Saturday at the Hidden Garden Art Gallery west of Liberia.

The show runs until Aug. 3. Peréz works with oils on canvas, and the show is titled "Eyes of the Soul."

As a child, not a day went by where he was not drawing something:  scribbled fishing boats, waves smashing against cliffs, the beach, and images of the estuary and mangroves, said the gallery in announcing the show, adding:

“As he explored his talent, he entered the workshop of the Austrian painter Herbert Birkner, where he learned the art of enameling on copper and numerous other techniques. With the strong spiritual connection to the earth and living in a country with fascinating ecology, he has become convinced that his art must have a relation to this environment that shapes and molds us.” 

The artist himself says “while having a strong spiritual connection to the earth and living in a country with fascinating ecology, I have become convinced that my art must have a relation to this environment that shapes and molds us.  Anything else would be going against the tide.  Many tourists fly here to take a quick glance at our jungles and wildlife, meanwhile, for me its all so close and easily accessible.  I always thank God for this. Today, trees, bromeliads, flowers, vines, birds, waterfalls, frogs and butterflies fill my work.  And in a magical and poetic act, I try to restore the world that my grandparents lived in and reinvent the Promised Land.”

Art critic Paul Solano Jimenez said:

“To define Perez's paintings formally or conceptually is not an easy matter.  His long career of experimentation in media and styles has been a constant.  His works range from the almost 'naive' in its early stages, to photorealism in some of his current work passing through intermediate stages where he nods to such disparate things as the Flemish school and pop.  Through such stylistic eclecticism and continued study,
working on the
"Dos pescadores y turista"

"Cristina y su mundo"

Pérez developed a refined technique, which allows him to achieve his formal artistic goals without any problems.”

The opening Saturday is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with the artist present. The gallery is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is located five kilometers west of Daniel Oduber airport, For more information those interested can call 8386-6872 or visit
— Published June 12, 2012

montage of
                weekend doings
    MAC photo
          Art museum
    A.M. Costa Rica file photo 
Crocs at the Río Tarcoles near Jacó
A.M. Costa Rica file photo                 
The ubiquitous marimbas        
There is no reason to stay home on the weekends here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The weekend is fast approaching, and the question alway is: What to do?

There are a lot of options for tourists and residents that can break the routine that sometimes threatens to overwhelm life here in the rainy season. Here are some suggestions:

Chicharronera Cacique Asseri is the multi-storied, 46-year-old restaurant on the main street in, of
Orosi church
A.M. Costa Rica file photo 
Orosi church
course, Asserí, just south of Desamparados and San José. The staff cooks chicharrones in caldrons. By the hundredweight. Locals parade through the restaurant in traditional masks. There is one or more cimarronas or small  bands. And there is always at least one or more marimba players.

This place is not for the Weight Watchers. No one leaves hungry. This is the spot where top government officials go for bachelor parties, despedidas and guaranteed great times. Bring a note from your cardiologist.

The chicharronía also boasts a terrific view of the Central Valley. That is something that is shared by dozens of so-called miradoras around the rim of the valley. If chicharrones are not on the diet, any number of restaurants will fill the bill, including the Le Monastère Restaurant & Cave in San Rafael de Escazú if money is not the prime concern. The view from the former monastery is worth the drive, not to mention the dark beer.

With the Caldera highway in service, the Pacific beckons for a day or weekend visit. CocoMar Residences & Beach Resort in Isla Palo Seco, Parrita, is offering anyone a free night in the facility. A lot of other hotel and condo facilities are open to the public over the weekends, and Jacó has turned from a sleepy village to a bustling community with all kinds of services for visitors. Walking on the beach is worth the trip. It is the closest beach to the Central Valley.

And anyone going west from the Central Valley who happens to find him or herself in La Garita needs to consider a quick stop at the La Fiesta del Maíz on the main highway for traditional and unique corn-based treats.

Just a few miles to the north of San José is the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad, called INBio, in Santo Domingo de Heredia. The private eco-reserve is conducting what is called Bioblitz this weekend, a 24-hour marathon counting of plants and creatures at the 5.5 hectare site. INBio is great not just for the snakes in glass boxes but for a hedge maze and duck pond, adds a reporter.

Those going east can drop in on the Monumento Nacional Guayabo, some 11 miles northeast of Turrialba. This is one of the great Latin American pre-Columbian sites but is not high on the list of the average visitor. The site was occupied for thousands of years, but not much is known about the people. They were experts in constructing draining systems and pools to control the heavy rainfall of the area. Much of the area has not been excavated. It ranks along with the stone spheres in the south Pacific, although that region is a bit far for a weekend jaunt from the Central Valley.

Those who wish to stay overnight could consider the Hacienda Tayutic, which boasts that the Turrialba area with the Tayutic Valley is a great alternative to other tourism locations, like Arenal, being more authentic, with fewer tourists and now with the misbehaving Turrialba volcano.

Nearby is the Costa Rica's Craft Brewing Co. in Tejar de El Guarco, Cartago. The firm offers tours with prior appointments Friday and Saturday afternoons. Dark beer can be found here with the owners who are challenging the Costa Rican beer monopoly.

In Paraíso de Cartago is found the Lankester Gardens, an orchid garden run by the Universidad de Costa Rica. There are more than 800 orchid species on display.
Further southwest is the community of Orosi and then the Parque Nacional Tapanti with plenty of wildlife and easy walking trails. Orosi is known for the 18th century Catholic church that recently underwent a major restoration.

One cannot talk about Cartago and churches without mentioning the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles in the center of that city. This manifestation of the Virgin Mary is the patroness of the nation. She is represented by a rough rock statute that is finely dressed at the top of the main altar. The faithful enter the main aisle on their knees. Others have sent elaborate clothing and other items for the statue. These are displayed in an adjacent room. There also is a line of persons seeking to fill containers with water from the spring near which the statue was found in 1635.

To the west is the ruinas de Cartago, the remains of a Catholic church in construction that was wrecked by the 1910 earthquake.

Arenal, of course, is a great place for a weekend visit. The warm water relaxes even though the volcano is not putting on as much of a show these days. The Hotel Arenal Paraíso Resort
Instituto Costariccense 
de Turismo photo 
Guayabo overview
& Spa correctly says it is just two and a half hours from San José, but the drive is sometimes rough when the weather is bad. A good bet is to take a commercial vehicle that many hotels can provide even to residents.

Sunday is the time for religious services. One would not have to be Catholic to appreciate the restoration work at the more than 100-year-old  Iglesia La Merced near the park by the same name in downtown San José. Fabulous is an understatement of the $1 million effort done by church officials, the 
municipality and Cervercería Costa Rica.

Those seeking a service in English can visit the International Baptist Church in Guachipelín, Escazú,  either at 9 a.m. or 11:30 a.m. Sunday.
A special program this week features  Rick Muchow, former music and worship pastor at Southern California's Saddleback Church for 24 years. He has recorded 24 CDs.

Those attending the 9 a.m. service will have time to drop by Parque la Sabana to watch one or more Sunday baseball games, if the weather cooperates.
A.M. Costa Rica file photo 
Basilica in Cartago
This is real hardball, and some of the players are U.S. Major League quality.  Many are Nicaraguan.

La Sabana is the place many Costa Ricans visit Sundays for picnics and family gatherings. The park is the former airport, and the former terminal and control tower is now the Museo de Arte Costarricense,  which is  open from 9 to 4 Tuesday through Sundays.

If the hours are too early after the chicharrones or dark beer, the
Escazú Christian Fellowship meets in the same place at 5 p.m.. That is at the Ferretería Construplaza turnoff on the Caldera highway.

The bulk of Costa Rica's population is in the Central Valley, but editors would welcome suggestions on weekend trips elsewhere in the country. There is fishing, of course in salt water and in the lakes and streams. A.M. Costa Rica's companion fishing title has reported on some of these. There also is rafting, zip lining, bird watching, whale watching and hundreds of other avocations. There is even a new adventure sports location north of San José on the highway to Limón.

Editors would like to hear about favorite places for readers to compile a similar, future news story. Write the editor. Please include links, although they will not show up in the story. All these locations are easily searchable on the Web.
— Originally published May 25, 2012

Al Andalus, the 20-year-old flamenco dance company, is a frequent performer at culture ministry events. The dancers will be there Sunday.

Flamenco dancers
Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud photos

11 groups will perform to mark
International Day of Dance

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anyone who likes dance will love Sunday, April 29. The day is being celebrated as the International Day of Dance in Costa Rica.

Some 11 groups will perform at the Teatro de la Danza at the Centro Nacional de Cultura in San José. The event begins at 6 p.m., and there is an admission.

The day is designated as such by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The presentations Sunday range from the flamenco to tap, modern and even Irish step dancing. The organizer is the Asociación Nacional de Trabajadores de la Danza. Most of the performers are professionals.

Among the groups participating are Al Andalus, the well-known flamenco troupe and Luna del Desierto, which offers Egyptian dance.

A solo performer will be Zohara, who presents what is called contemporary Oriental.

As part of the dance presentations, what is being called a Danzatón will be presented May 11, 12 and 13. The dancers will be professional-semi-professional and youngsters on the final night.

The Centro Nacional de Cultura is also the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud. It is just east of Parque España and south of Avenida 7 in north San José. The compound is the antigua Fábrica Nacional de Licores or old liquor factory.

The International Day of Dance began in 1982, and the date is that of the birth of the creator of modern ballet, Jean-Georges Noverre, who died in 1810.
—First Published April 24, 2012

Oriental cancer Zohara

Artist's life here started with search for reasonable dental work
By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Love brought artist Scott Wimer to live in Costa Rica, but it was a need for dental work that introduced him to the country.

At 21 he was living in Paris as a fashion photographer. By the age of 28 he left his life in the fast lane and returned to the United States. He moved to San Francisco where he worked as a cab driver, in what Wimer referred to as humbling.

“I'm actually probably one of the only people to move there (San Francisco) to stop doing drugs,” said Wimer jokingly.

Before his move to Europe, Wimer went to the Art Institute of Chicago and stumbled onto photography by taking pictures of his model friends to help build their folders. His girlfriend at the time had moved to Paris to model, and after a short amount of time she bought his ticket to France. And so began his career in the fashion industry.

His hard partying ways led him to a need for change. At least that's what his shrink told him, said Wimer. His therapist said either he leaves or die young as a result of the way he was living. So he packed up and moved to the home of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Wimer has lived in this country for more than a year. He got his first taste of Costa Rica five years ago when he came to the country for a dentist appointment and continued his trips for further medical reasons.

Wimer like many Americans in the United States doesn't have health insurance, let alone dental insurance. He Googled “cheap dental” and the Web site of a dentist popped up, so Wimer said he sent an email to the dentist and the doctor called him right away.

He said he travelled to the country and after a few years of visiting, the country grew on him. And now he is happily married to a Tica and has opened his own gallery in the Barrio Otoya neighborhood.
Artist and his work
A.M. Costa Rica/Shaarazad Encinias Vela
Scott Wimer and one of his photos

“ I tend to fall in love and move,” said Wimer. He said that was the case when he moved to Paris, to Italy and now to Costa Rica. But it seems that his romantic side has allowed him to experiment and continue to work in the art industry.

At his gallery his new experimental works are on exhibit. He manipulates his photography with digital media and he blends painting to the mix. This is something new to him, he said.

Although he is still experimenting with the style, he has been successful as he has sold certain pieces. He has sold a few pieces to certain ambassadors. One of his pieces that he sold to an ambassador and his wife was a manipulated picture of a local nightspot around 5 a.m.  Wimer said he took the picture from his seat in the bus as it drove past the site.

“I like to capture real stuff happening,” said Wimer. “I like to have a lot of fun!”
— originally published April 18, 2012

Study links chocolate consumption to lower body weight
By the University of California at San Diego news service

Katherine Hepburn famously said of her slim physique: “What you see before you is the result of a lifetime of chocolate.” New evidence suggests she may have been right.

Beatrice Golomb, associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues presented new findings that may overturn the major objection to regular chocolate consumption: that it makes people fat. The study, showing that adults who eat chocolate on a regular basis are actually thinner than those who don’t. The work is being published online in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The authors dared to hypothesize that modest, regular chocolate consumption might be calorie-neutral – in other words, that the metabolic benefits of eating modest amounts of chocolate might lead to reduced fat deposition per calorie and approximately offset the added calories, thus rendering frequent, though modest, chocolate consumption neutral with regard to weight. To assess this hypothesis, the researchers examined dietary and other information provided by  approximately 1,000 adult men and women from San Diego for whom weight and height had been measured.

The findings were even more favorable than the researchers conjectured. They found that adults who ate chocolate on more days a week were actually thinner and had a lower body mass index than those who ate chocolate less often.

The size of the effect was modest but the effect was significant –larger than could be explained by chance, the authors said.  This was despite the fact that those who ate chocolate more often did not eat fewer calories, they ate more. Nor did they exercise more. Indeed, no differences in behaviors were identified that might explain the finding as a difference in calories taken in versus calories expended.

“Our findings appear to add to a body of information 
Eat some and be thin!

suggesting that the composition of calories, not just the number of them, matters for determining their ultimate impact on weight,” said Professor Golomb, who also is a physician. “In the case of chocolate, this is good news  – both for those who have a regular chocolate habit, and those who may wish to start one.”
— March 28, 2012

Museo Calderón Guardia will display 82 Goya works on war
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
First published March 8, 2012
The Museo Calderón Guardia will put on display March 17 the 82 works by Francisco de Goya entitled  Los desastres de la guerra or “Disasters of war.”

The works were done between 1810 and 1815 and depict the bloody events of the Peninsula War when Napoleon put his brother Joseph on the Spanish thrown.

The works were so startling and sometimes critical of the restored Bourbon monarchy that they were not exhibited for nearly 50 years.

The works were brought to the country as part of the Festival Internacional de las Artes. By the Embassy of Spain.

Some of the works are grim depictions of death and tragedy connected with the war. Goya was a court painter before the French invasion which was bitterly contested by Spanish partisans as well as a British expeditionary force.
Goya's work
 One of the works depicting the guerilla war waged by the
 Spanish against the French and its consequences.

Goya is perhaps best known for his oil painting of the “The Naked Maja,” a reclining nude that appeared on Spanish stamps in the 20th century. The work was daring for its time.

Teatro Nacional will begin 2012 season Tuesday with dancers
By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Teatro Nacional is ready to launch the new year with more than 3,200 artists lined up for its 2012 schedule. The opening day is Tuesday.

The inaugural event is the play “Pendulum,” an open performance by University of Costa Rica dancers at noon. This is the Teatro al Mediodía, inside the main hall. There are a total of 37 noon performances this year.

On the second floor of the Teatro Nacional, the Foyer, there will be 12 performances this year. The Foyer is a smaller room with a ceiling painting found on the old five colon note. The  late afternoon musical acts, Música al Atardecer, will feature 32 different performances there.

Besides these performances the main theater will feature 122
 events, including 18 dance, 44 musical and two flamenco performances, an opera, and the Festival de Poesía.

The singer Pablo Milanes is the first big evening show of the year for the theater Feb. 23.

This year the theater has opened up a call center for those who have questions. Adriana Collado, director of the Teatro Nacional, said this year the theater is more accessible to the public. In the past, the theater catered to international acts, but now they have included more national acts.

“This is a theater that we can really say is ours,” said Manuel Obregón, minister of Cultura y Juventud.

Ticket prices vary on the performance. Teatro al Mediodía tickets cost 1,000 colons, and one for the Música al Atardecer costs 2,000 colons.
— Feb. 3, 2012

Middle-aged hard drug dabblers likely to die early, study says
By the University of Alabama at Birmingham news service

Young adults often experiment with hard drugs, such as cocaine, amphetamines and opiates, and all but about 10 percent stop as they assume adult roles and responsibilities. Those still using hard drugs into their 50s are five times more likely to die earlier than those who do not, according to a new study by University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers. The report was published online Friday in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.4 percent of Americans ages 50-59 and 7 percent of adults ages 35-49 reported use of a drug other than marijuana sometime in the past year.

The study’s lead author, Stefan Kertesz, associate professor in the Univserity of Alabana at Birmingham Division of Preventive Medicine, and colleagues attempted to discover if lifelong hard-drug use shortens lifespan to better enable primary-care doctors to advise patients who use drugs recreationally.

“While government guidelines have not endorsed screening for drugs in primary care, many doctors are challenged when they discover patients continue to dabble with them,” Kertesz says.  “In primary-care practice, we often hear from stable patients who report using some cocaine, irregularly, perhaps on weekends. It’s an under appreciated but very common situation. The typical question physicians have to ask is ‘If this patient doesn’t have addiction, what advice can I give other than noting that it’s unwise to break the law?’ After all, we are supposed to be doctors, not law enforcement.”

Kertesz and a research team from other universities looked at data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study for their analysis. The data base funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, is a long-term research project involving more than 5,000 black and white men and women from Birmingham, Chicago, Minneapolis and Oakland, designed to examine the development and determinants of cardiovascular disease and its risk factors.
Participants ages 18-30 were recruited and followed from 1985 to 2006.

The research team looked specifically at the reported use of hard drugs by 4,301 of the Coronary Artery Risk participants. They compared people who stopped drug use early to those who continued and calculated the likelihood of premature death among these groups.

“Fourteen percent of the people in the study reported recent hard-drug use at least once, and of these, half continued using well into middle age,” Kertesz says. “But, most of the drug users in our study were not addicts. They were dabblers who used just a few days a month.”

Kertesz and his colleagues found that older hard-drug users were more likely to report being raised in economically challenged circumstances in a family that was unsupportive, abusive or neglectful. The team also found that those who were heavy drug users into young adulthood and continued at lower levels into middle age were roughly five times more likely to die than persons who didn’t use drugs.

“We can’t assume that drugs caused death, as in an overdose,” he says. “Rather what we found is that middle-age adults who continue to dabble in hard drugs represent a group that is at risk of bad outcomes — which could include death from trauma, heart disease or other causes that are not a direct result of their drug use — at a higher rate than people who stopped using drugs.”

Kertesz added that the team’s findings are a reminder that people who continue to use drugs are potentially quite vulnerable. They often have grown up under economic and psychosocial stress from childhood onward. They continue to smoke and drink and they remain at elevated risk of premature death.

“Based on the data we hope to offer better advice to primary-care doctors struggling with the rising tide of drug-taking by adults who have not left behind many of the bad habits they learned in young adulthood,” he said.

Two artists'
              Fabio Herrera 'Jardin' done in 2005.                                 Mario Maffioli's 'Rombo 3' done last year.
Two top artists have a double opening Saturday in Guanacaste
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Two established Costa Rican artists will exhibit their works at a show that begins Saturday at the Hidden Garden Art Gallery west of Liberia.

The artists are Fabio Herrera Martinez and Mario Maffioli Reyes. Each will exhibit 10 works.

Herrera, born in San José, has studied at the school of fine arts at the Universidad de Costa Rica, and has had international exhibits in Spain, Mexico, Sweden, and the United States. With over 100 solo exhibits and hundreds of collective exhibits, Herrera is cited in over 80 books.  His more than 20 awards include numerous Aquileo J. Echeverría prizes.

Says the artist:

“I paint and continue painting because I want to discover something, and in these days I discovered that painting wants to liberate herself. She wants her own space, and I am the medium to do it. She gives me pleasure, she makes me think. I must be her ally: she liberates me. And in this long trek we have created an inseparable alliance, where the only sure thing
is, at the end, she will stay and I will leave.”

Award winning artist Maffioli also was born in San José and studied at the school of fine arts. He is a founding member of the Bocaracá Group. Maffioli has participated in over 100 exhibits, nationally and internationally, and is cited in more than 80 books.

Says the artist:

“Non-representative art, or concrete art, or the misnamed 'abstract art,' is the most important rebirth of art since the Renaissance. In concrete painting, lines, spots, texture, speak of the poetry proper to matter, the capacity to communicate in itself its physical and conceptual existence, with no reference to surroundings. Being born, day by day, by means of pictorial material, helped me to find the connection between an unknown internal world and an esthetic reality, a superb way of representing my vexation. To have the opportunity of motivating the imagination, without ties and with an absolute resolution of pleasure and freedom is a great satisfaction.”

The opening Saturday is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  The gallery is 5 kilometers west of the Daniel Oduber airport.
— Jan. 13, 2012

examples from Liberia show
Here are some examples of the works of Ulises Jiménez Obregon
Guanacaste artist will open his 20th local show Wednesday
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Painter and sculptor Ulises Jiménez Obregon opens his 20th exhibition in his home province of Guanacaste Wednesday.
The show is at the Hidden Garden Art Gallery and is titled "People of Sun." The show runs through Jan. 13.

In describing his show, the artist said “My work represents the historical sense of Guanacaste: where the sun has carved a human being, and cultural and physical characteristics very different from the rest of the country.”

Jiménez has had over 50 collective and 35 individual exhibitions throughout Costa Rica. With more than five shows internationally, he continues absorbing and spreading his artistic knowledge by attending over 11 national and three international symposiums, he reported, adding that he recently returned from a four-month artistic journey to China and Spain.

His sculptures are in private collections throughout the world,
 including France, Italy, Spain, China, Israel, Germany and Mexico, and throughout Central and South America, Canada and the United States.

Jiménez was a part of a group at the school of fine arts at the Universidad Autónoma de Centroamérica in Heredia. Fellow sculptor Olger Villegas Cruz said  "Ulises always showed a great disposition for art. He continues to grow in terms of design and quality of expression, mainly thanks to a tireless fighter who only listens and obeys the dictates of his unswerving vocation, even in what can sometimes be a hostile environment, like sculpture art.

"This talented sculptor has a well-deserved place in our artistic environment. I could say many things about the works of Ulises, and I invite you to enjoy your show, which will be a very rich experience, I'm sure."

The Hidden Garden Art Gallery is west of Liberia on the main highway to Playas de Coco.                          — Dec. 13

Crab and beach
                'Cangrejo Azúl de Puntarenas'                                      and 'La Mar Estaba Tranquila' (Punta Leona)
Her pride being a Costa Rican is reflected in her watercolors
By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican coasts have inspired some to surf, swim, and travel. To others the beaches have inspired something more personal. In the case of Cristina Fournier, it has inspired her to paint.

The Costa Rican native will have the inauguration of her exhibit “De la Costa y otros más…” at the Alliance Française tonight at 7 o'clock. Her exhibit is the last one of the year that will be shown at the center in Barrio Amón, San José. The exhibit closes Saturday.

Ms. Fournier spent two years traveling around the coasts of Costa Rica in places such as Puntarenas, Jacó, Punta Leona, and Dominical. She said that during her journey when she painted she liked to talk to the locals.

“When I paint, I love to talk to the people because they are very helpful and nice. They become proud because you are painting their boat, or restaurant or beach. . . I would sit down and paint, and someone would bring me a chair or a stool,” she said.
Ms. Fournier said Dominical was a very beautiful area with many unexplored beaches. That is where she found Piñuela, a beach that was distinct from the others because of its strange rock formations.

“I have chosen in my life, since I was very small to paint what God has given us, the beauty of this earth,” she said. “This has been my contribution to society and the world.”

She used watercolor and oil to portray several scenes from the different beaches and sea life she visited. She said the ocean was the hardest to paint in watercolor because of its movement. Her style of painting is different than others she said, because she doesn't draw what she is painting beforehand. Everything is in her head, and then she draws and paints with her brush.
“I love painting what I see,” said Ms. Fournier.

At 74 years old, her passion for Costa Rica is very strong regardless the situation she said.

“I am very proud to be a Costa Rican,” said Ms. Fournier. “There are many things wrong right now, but as Costa Ricans we will get through it together.”                 — Dec.12, 2011

Fractals make their way to the Calderón Guardia museum
By Zack McDonald
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fractals appear in nature everywhere -- from DNA sequences to snowflakes. They are geometric objects whose basic structure is repeated at different scales. In the Museo Calderón Guardia, an exhibit by Herberth Bolaños, ¨acuarela/fractales¨ explores this theme. Only he created the designs with the use of watercolors and tiny slips of entwined paper.

The language used in some works of art, like a Rorschach test, can have thousands of meanings according to who looks at them. Such it is with Bolaños´exhibit. The artist gives some guidelines, but it is the viewer's brain that constructs a meaning or interpretation of the work.

“I use watercolor, its materials and effects experimenting and exploring the layout,¨ said Bolaño of his work. ¨Through forms they conduce me to portray ways of visually expressing my world’s vision.”

Another theme in this series is transparencies, showing the inside and outside simultaneously. There are references to pure minimalism of the 60s mixed with the simple and timeless basics of Zen Buddhism.
A.M. Costa Rica photo 
Examples of some of the works on display.

His creative research has to do with fractals, with the proportions of things, as this constituted the universe or the planning of a city, but his poetic way of executing the image makes the work become mainly a visual delight and a joy for the spirit, according to Luis Chacon G., curator of visual arts.

The work of Bolaños has been exhibited and awarded in museums and galleries throughout Latin America from Mexico, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Panamá, and Costa Rica. He has also held several exhibits in Japan.

He is co-head of the art and visual communication school in the Universidad Nacional in Heredia. He specializes in watercolor, engraving, textiles and hand-made paper. Bolaños was born in Heredia.                                                 

store shelves
A.M. Costa Rica/Zach McDonald
A variety of taxes raise the price of these products by as much as 116 percent
Duty-free purchases turn out to be a pretty good idea
By Shahrazad Encinias
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Initially published Nov. 8
Tourists come to Costa Rica to escape the daily life of bills, work, and responsibility. They come in droves to relax, explore and have fun. But there is something that is not in the advertisements to come to this country, and that's taxes. Costa Rica, jokingly referred by some as “Taxa Rica,” has become the land of tariffs. The presumed inexpensive vacation has evolved into such; a presumption.

Liquor is a holiday staple, and buying bottles at the duty-free stores inside Juan Santamaría airport is cheaper by far than purchasing them inside the country. And that includes Costa Rica national liquor.

International liquor importers (and eventually the consumer) have to pay at least five different taxes before selling a product in Costa Rica. The only exception are goods that enter and remain in the duty-free area of Golfito.

All foreign beer, spirits, and wines are assessed a 15 percent tariff. All alcohol beverage products then face a 13 percent sales tax plus a 10 percent consumption tax. On top of that, for liquors alone, there is a 10 percent tax from the Instituto de Fomento y Asesoria Municipal Descentralización Democrática y Fortalecimiento Local and a final 8 percent tax from the Instituto de Desarrollo Agrario.

A one liter bottle of the famous Stolichnaya, Russian vodka costs $10 at the duty-free and sells for 11,020 colons at a local grocery in San José. That's  approximately $21.59. The store price is 116 per cent more than at the duty-free shop.
Duty free
San José
grocery price
colons (dollars)
1 liter
11,020 ($21.59)
759 milliliter
7,022 ($13.76)
1 liter
17,730 ($34.73)
Johnny Walker
red 1 liter
18,035 ($35.33)
Captain Morgan
750 millilieters
7,200 ($14,10
Flor de Caña
750 milliliters
7,195 ($14.09)
Ron Zacapa
23 years old
750 milliliters
28,500 ($55.83)
Ron Centenario
7 years old
750 milliliters
8,120 ($15.91)
Source: reporter survey

A reporter survey validates the idea that prices at the duty-free store are considerably less than the price in groceries, something that is not always the case.

With local stations going on the Internet, a news junkie can watch all the stations at once without flipping channels, something that also is possible with some television sets but a lot easier with a Web browser like Firefox. These stations are Channel 6, Repretel, Channel 42 from El Diario Extra and the upper half of Channel 7 Teletica.

television stations
A.M. Costa Rica graphic

Television news shows now are as close as the Internet browser
By the A.M. Costa Rica Lifestyle staff

With most Central Valley television stations now online in a limited fashion, Internet users do not have to leave their desk to catch the latest news in Spanish.

Repretel with its channels 6 and 11, Teletica with its Channel 7, Sociedad Periodística Extra Limitada with its Channel 42 and the new entry, Channel 9 each have some air time through various technical means.

Channel 6 and 11 are streamed through Central de Radio, a firm that operates Radio Reloj, Radio Monumental and 28 others and also provides online music via the Internet.

Channel 9 and Channel 7 are available through, which also contains YouTube personal videos. Channel 42,  appears to produce its own Internet signal, but a special browser plugin is required to see the live shows.

Most of the programming now is either news or soccer games, Channel 6 has the most ambitious schedule starting at 6 a.m. But the online version goes dark several times a day. Channel 9 does not list a schedule, although a movie was playing Sunday night.

Channel 7 went dark on the Internet Sunday night in the middle of its news show. However, it was back on in time for “Pequeños Gigantes,” the children's variety show.

Such variety would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, but Internet bandwidth continues to expand. The station programming is viewed easily with a normal household cable Internet hookup.

Those who really are hooked on electronics can find Channel 42 on their iPad, and Central de Radio will stream music to cell telephones.   Sociedad Periodística Extra also has its Radio América at 780 am streaming live via its El Diaro Extra Web page.
Even when the stations are not producing a live Internet signal, the various Web pages contain snippets from earlier broadcasts, mostly of local news.

Internet broadcasting for both television and radio is far more economical than using vast amounts of electricity to send a
signal through the open air.

Ustream, like YouTube, invites individuals to submit clips and even provides a downloadable program to create video.

Although the Internet shows have limited popularity, clearly the time is coming when all programming will be shifted to the Internet, and thousands of new arrivals will be producing shows in the same way that the Internet has transformed the print media.

Here are the links:

Channel 7, Teletica:
or via the station's Web page:

Channel 6 and 11, Repretel

Channel 9

Channel 42

Central de Radio

Radio América