I had to spend a few days in San Jose this week doing some business but also to have a short getaway. It’s always fun to spend a few days here even in this city; there’s a bit of an adrenalin rush with all the buildings, stores, restaurants and people.
By most accounts, San Jose is not much of a city to look at. Except for a handful of buildings such as the National Theatre, there isn’t much architecture to enjoy so one must therefore focus on the people and their culture. One of my favorite places to hang out is the News Café, a decidedly gringo-focused restaurant and bar right on Avenida Central which is a major, pedestrian-only, shopping street downtown. The food is pretty good at News Café, particularly after weeks of eating “tipico” food. Having a good cheeseburger or fish and chips definitely hits the spot! It is also a great place for people watching with it’s open-air bar area. On a lazy Saturday afternoon, I sat at New Café and over a large Imperial on draught, watched the Ticos coming and going, darting in and out of buildings and ducking under overhangs, as it appears the
Thanks to Donna and Lauren for the pictures in this blog entry
rainy season’s rains have finally come (at least to San Jose).
The rain brings out all types of entrepreneurs, particularly the street variety. Some are hawking umbrellas, others are selling ponchos, and still others are selling plastic—yes plastic—which I assume would work as cover from the rain. The plastic appeared large enough that it could also be used as I tent! I, of course, forgot to bring an umbrella and when one of these young entrepreneurs approached me at the restaurant, I decided that 1000 colones ($2) was well worth it to avoid getting wet after I left the restaurant. As the rain became more intense, I noticed the price of umbrellas went up. The same person who sold me the umbrella was back about twenty minutes later and the new price to the other grinos sitting near me was 2500 colones; later on it was 3000 colones. So, I guess I got a bargain!
I noticed on the bus ride into the city a larger than usual police presence, particularly near Sabana Park on the western edge of San Jose. Not long thereafter a cab driver mentioned something about Oscar Arias and I was
able to understand with my weak knowledge of Spanish that Monday is his inauguration as “President of the Republic,” and preparations were well underway for this event (Arias also lives near Sabana Park apparently).
As in most countries, Inauguration Day is a big event here. For one, all public employees have the day off—which means about a quarter of the population!—and once again, most government office will be closed. I swear, given all the holidays, that the post office is open an average of 3.5 days a week!
A lot of dignitaries are coming to San Jose for the day including U.S. First Lady Laura Bush (apparently she’s not staying at our B&B this time!), several U.S. Congressman, and most heads of state of Central American countries. Like the U.S., security is tight and several roads will be closed particularly around the stadium in Sabana Park where the actual swearing in will take place.
Arias, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, is the first President reelected in 36 years and will take office again twenty years after his first term in office. He clearly has less of a mandate as he eventually won with 41% of the votes in
his favor, and with less than 50% of the electorate actually taking part in the election.
Things are much different today than in 1986 when Arias first took office. While tourism has increased significantly, Intel has a huge production facility here, and the country’s economy has diversified quite a bit, there are many problems he’ll need to address including a crumbling infrastructure/transportation system (particularly the quality of the road system), a widening gap between the rich and the poor, and a taxation system that cannot makes ends meet.
While the political situation has generally stabilized in well-known trouble spots such as Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras, there is a growing leftist trend in Latin America, particularly embodied in Hugo Chavez, and Arias will need to decide where he stands in relation to other Latin countries, and in particular, the United States, as this movement grows. Most recently, Bolivia nationalized its oil industry and while Arias’ country does not have vast natural resources, only time will tell how he approaches his neighbors and his protector to the north. He clearly supports the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), much to the chagrin of his fellow countrymen, but realizes it is
not the panacea for Costa Rica’s problems.
In other news….
The honeymoon couple that stayed with us went home to Reno after a great trip here. I understand they may be purchasing property in our area and if so, they’ll be great neighbors. We hope they move here soon.
Next week will be as exciting as it sometimes is for an ex-pat B&B owner in Costa Rica with
plenty of cleaning chores (chicken coop, bodega, dog pen, etc.) and more generally, odd jobs around the house. I hope the rains, predicted for these first two weeks of May, hold off a little longer so I can stay outside, and continue to work on my ever-deepening tan!
That’s all for now!
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