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Monday, September 13, 2010

Independence and the Coffee Bean

         Well, today’s the big day. So far we’ve had no word from Monika, our attorney, but we hope that her meeting with Migracion (Immigration) went well and that we will soon be over that first big hurdle. With a change in our status from “tourista” to “in process,” we understand that certain aspects of our life here will become easier. At least we won’t have to leave the country every 90 days.
         This is a big week for everyone here in Costa Rica. Wednesday will mark the nation’s 189th year of independence from Spain, making it one of the world’s oldest democracies. On September 15, 1821, Guatemala called a Popular Assembly and declared independence for itself and four other Central American countries, forming the short-lived Federal Republic of Central America. By 1838 the Central American Federation had essentially ceased to function and Costa Rica formally withdrew and declared itself a separate sovereign state.
         Back in 1824, the Costa Rican Congress elected Juan Mora Fernandez as the new nation’s first Chief of State. A visionary, he built schools and roads, promoted industry and commerce and was the man who foresaw the importance of coffee as an export crop for the nascent country. Under his progressive liberal guidance, land grants were offered free to anyone who would plant coffee. Through his farsighted leadership, Fernandez helped to create a nation of small coffee plantations, which led to a large middle class of property owners. Even today, many Tico families continue to own their own land with every square inch planted in beautiful dark green coffee plants. And although a group of large coffee barons developed, they cooperated with peasant coffee farmers in processing the crops for export and with their eventual wealth, invested in the nation’s infrastructure, building a new road to transport coffee from high in the Central Valley to the Pacific port of Puntarenas. In fact, it was along that old road that Layne and I took our morning walks last spring. (See my blog post for more on the road and a photo here:
         The oxen and the boyeros who drove them are commemorated here in Atenas, since the main road through this town was the principle route leading to Puntarenas. At the juncture of that main road and the side road leading to our current home here in Los Angeles stands a dramatic metal sculpture of a boyero with his team of oxen and his cart loaded down with coffee beans headed for the coast. Another tribute to these historical drovers is held here in Atenas in mid-April with an oxcart parade as part of the annual Climate Fair. (See a report on that festive event in this blog:
         Costa Ricans take their independence seriously with parades, festivals and other celebrations all across the country, but having abolished their army in 1948, Independence Day here lacks any signs of a military unless you count the drum and xylophone corps of schoolchildren. Layne and I happened to be here during mid-September a few years ago and were literally stopped in our car tracks by a parade of spiffy marching troops, little girls in brightly colored ruffled skirts and drummer boys proudly strutting along. In recent days here in Atenas, we’ve heard lots of drum practice in the distance so we fully expect a festive week in town. We’ll be doing our shopping early, as most shops will be closed for the celebrations.
         On a recent walk we noticed another piece of Costa Rican history in a neighbor’s yard: three stone spheres, reminiscent of the famously mysterious stone spheres found here in the 1930’s during agricultural work by the United Fruit Company as they cleared the jungle for banana plantations. Some three hundred almost perfectly round petrospheres, ranging in size from a few centimeters to over six and a half feet in diameter, have been found, primarily in the Diquis Delta in southern Costa Rica. Most were sculpted from granodiorite, a hard, igneous stone, or gabbro, the coarse-grained equivalent of basalt and weigh up to 16 tons. How they were made or what they were used for is still a subject of great debate in archeological circles. It is believed that they were carved between 200 B.C. and 1500 A.D., but they had been all but lost by the time of the Spanish conquest of Central America.
         Hoping for a photo, we walked into our neighbor’s yard and found her sitting on the porch. With my budding Spanish, I let her know I was a writer and wished to take a photo of her spheres. She was quick to inform me that they were not originals but said they looked much the same as the authentic ones. After a few photos, we thanked her and went on our way. But today, as we walked along the same street, she intercepted us, introduced herself as Anna and asked for the website where my blog appears. I told her it was in English but that seemed to be fine with her. Maybe she knows about Google Translate. I think perhaps I have a new reader. Hola, Anna!
         And just now on the phone, we have learned the good news from Monika that everything went perfectly today and we now officially have an “active” file. In a couple of months, we should have legal residency and even more of a reason to love our adopted country. I think we shall have good reason to celebrate Costa Rican Independence Day with great enthusiasm this week!


  1. Hope your residency goes through in the next 60 days. Does anything ever go wrong for you guys? Such perfection knoweth no bounds. Wow! How great is that?
    Cy Bolinger

  2. Layne is the one with all the good luck (so he says)... I'm just along for the ride! Today I got signed up for CAJA... all in about 45 minutes or so. Couldn't believe it! No lines at CAJA or Seguro Social... so what can I say? Must be all that "clean living..." don't you think? ;-)

  3. "Clean living" it is! We did our CAJA matriculation in about 1.5 hours. We have used it several times. Whew!