A.M.
Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 28, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 84
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Former United Fruit buildings receive heritage protection award
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Former houses of the United Fruit Company based in Quepos should receive some renovation as the new winners of the cultural ministry’s “Salvemos nuestro patrimonio histórico-arquitectónico.”

The property of which these buildings sit on is part of the old Zona Americana of Quepos and consists of over 52 buildings that formed an integral part of the former banana empire that dominated Puntarenas province for  decades.

El inmueble 94, or property 94 as it is called in English, first truly developed in 1938 with the Lara Chittenden contract, which gave United Fruit Costa Rican land for a stipulated period of 50 years. The ministry said that shares in the houses were also purchased by Agathon Lutz of Pirris Farm Trading Company.

The construction process that subsequently began apparently relied on the use of donkeys for transport before a railroad could be brought in, according to records from the Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural.

The organization handles the preservation and conservation of sites deemed important to the country’s national heritage.

Once the railroad was brought in to the burgeoning Zona Americana, the buildings that just won the right to preservation sponsorship were used by the rail company to handle administrative tasks including the buying and selling of tickets to use the line.

The banana business was booming during this period and the main source in the economy of the region and for Quepos. That all went bust beginning around 1954 and 1955, according to the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud.

Union conflicts, floods and the loss of profits all contributed to the downfall of United Fruit’s interests within the area and the company transferred the property over to Palma Tica, a palm oil production company.

Patrimonio building
Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud photo
One of the buildings deemed worthy of preservation.

The ministry said that shortly thereafter, the rail line disappeared beneath the asphalt of a new road and the only memory left were just the vacated buildings.

Palma Tica also began to face legal trouble and the site, now known as the Antigua Zona Americana, was abandoned and evicted to be administered by the government. To that end, the buildings are subject to intense vulnerability in the form of decay and vandalism of the property, the  trio of architects advocating for the sponsorship warned.

The group of three included Ulises Pérez Araya, a professor at Universidad Latina and recent graduates Melisa Muñoz Martínez and Geannina Zúñiga Villalobos.

The young women received their diplomas in architecture Wednesday as a result of having completed their graduation project, which was the call for preserving this area and winning the contest.

"This project is strategically located and will allow the people of Quepos to come and see that we have other buildings that we can rescue, use and enforce,” Pérez said.

“I think it will be a bastion for other professionals to see that we can do much with this type of architecture that is highly identified with the tropics and with Costa Rica.”




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