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VOICES OF GUANACASTE

Stories from Another Place

PENINSULA PAPAGAYO / COSTA RICA

The Guanacaste Province is a magical land of pastoral farms, cattle ranches and some of the happiest people on the planet. They are passionate about their homeland and sharing its natural beauty and cultural riches with members and guests.

OTTO APUY

ARTIST AND JOURNALIST

In Guanacaste, solitude has allowed the creation of an original culture. There are personal, sociological and environmental themes.

When I do an installation of three-dimensional art, people can see, feel, touch, smell and hear. In 1994, I made “Estética de la Destrucción,” an installation for the opening of the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design in San José. The theme was a massive forest fire. I put the easel in front of the forest and started painting the landscape. I thought, ‘If the forest disappears, what will happen with the artists?’ Losing a forest to fire is a symbol of losing the environment.

The show was exactly like watching the forest. There was the installation and the video art, and I made a performance on the night of the opening. The performance was a person walking, and the video showed feet walking through the ashes. In the gallery, I made burning footprints on the metal floor—my burning footprints. I walk, put gasoline, and whoosh. And there, my footprints were burning in front of the public.

MARGARITA MARCHENA

FOUNDER OF COOPETORTILLAS R.L.

I formed this cooperative in 1975, when I was 53 years old. I love children and wanted to help single mothers who have no other income. Every person is here because she cooks. We bake homemade bread on Tuesday and on Friday, rosquillas (ring-shaped corn cookies). Tortillas, every day. We start working at three in the morning and open every day of the year except Holy Friday. Our customers start coming here at five a.m.

There are 14 women who cook here, and they are very creative. We don’t have a menu, but the girls are very smart, they know what to offer. It’s very local: pollo sudado (chicken with tomatoes, bell peppers, cilantro), picadillo de papa (potato hash) with carne en salsa (beef with sauce), arroz (rice), all kinds of things. They can come here, do what they know, and have a salary. The monthly payroll is equal. The important thing is that they have money to give to their children, send them to school, and survive. I have no children of my own, but I raised six children from when they were young.

MANUEL JIRÓN

FORMER MAJOR LANDOWNER OF PENINSULA PAPAGAYO

Three partners and I used to own a large part of the peninsula. In 1952, I bought 10,500 hectares, most of the Bay of Culebra. I was here when it all started. I used to own a lot of the land by the airport in Liberia. When the government needed an airport, I sold the land to them for 400 colones per hectare. In those days, 1974, the airport was a must, so I was happy with the transaction. The land that I didn’t sell for the airport, I sold at different prices to different people, about one million colones per hectare.

Here at Las Trancas, I have lived for 65 years in this house. I am 90 years old, married nearly 60 years to my wife, Miriam. Now I plant rice in both seasons. I also have sugar cane and cattle, and I plant trees for wood: mahogany, teak, pochote, cenizaro, cedar, melina, ron ron—200 hectares in trees. The rest is forest and pasture. I started in logging in 1936 and continued until 1944 or ’45, maybe 1948. When the Inter-American Highway was built in 1954, things changed. That is when Guanacaste was really incorporated into the country of Costa Rica.

Biographical copy and images on this page originally appeared in the book “Voices of Guancaste,” and abridged versions are presented here courtesy of author Jocelyn Fujii and photographer Tony Arruzza.