Archive for November 2009

Shoe Tossing, Shoefiti……Why do those shoes hang from Power Lines?

November 21, 2009
Shoefiti in Costa Rica

The Famous Hanging Shoes in Costa Rica

Next time you are traveling in Latin America, or practically any country nowadays for that matter, as you pass through some of the small towns or find yourself in the inner cities, take a good look up.  Chances are you will see a pair or pairs of the famous “hanging shoes” drapped over the power lines high above you.

What do they mean?  How do they get up there?  Good questions that curious people have been asking for many years.  Let’s explore some of the history and folklore behind the obiquitous “hanging shoes” and we’ll let you draw your own conclusions in the end.

Shoe tossing or “shoefiti” as it has come to be known in many International circles, is the worldwide phenomenon of throwing shoes whose laces have been tied together so that they hang from overhead power lines or telephone cables.

In some neighborhoods, shoes tied together and hanging from these power lines signify that someone has passed on and the shoes belong to the dead person.  Legend has it that the reason they are hanging is so that when the dead person’s spirit returns, it will walk high above the ground, meaning they will be that much closer to heaven.  Another superstition holds that the tossing of shoes over the power lines outside of a person’s house is a way to keep the home safe from ghosts. Some countries also believe that it signals someone is leaving the neighborhood and moving on to better opportunities.

There are a number of more sinister explanations for this shoe tossing practice. Some claim that shoes hanging from the wires advertise a locale where drugs are sold, while others claim that the shoes mark gang turf. These explanations may have developed over the years as inner city crime increased, but fail to explain why the practice occurs more often along relatively remote stretches of rural highways or throughout most Third World countries that are for the most part unlikely scenes for gang murders and drug dens.

Other random shoe tossing explanations include shoes that are flung to commemorate the end of a school year, or an upcoming marriage, or some claim it even signifies the loss of one’s virginity.  It has also been suggested that the shoe tossing custom may have originated with members of the military who are said to have thrown military boots over wires as a rite of passage upon completing basic training or upon leaving the service.

Perhaps the most likely reason for the practice of shoe tossing, at least in most rural areas, is simply the act of bullying, or as a practical joke played on your “amigos”.  Lastly, others simply say that shoe tossing is a fun way to get rid of shoes that are no longer wanted and pose great challenge and fun while attempting to get them in place on the high wires.

Naturally, only each individual “shoe-tosser” knows why his/her pair of shoes are hanging from the wires, but the practice has become a common one throughout Costa Rica and now just serves as another display of modern art or to many a form of environmental pollution, all depending on your own perspective or sense of humor!

Author:  Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years.  Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.  Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the  Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.

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Squirrel Monkey or Mono Titi (in Spanish)….. We´re too damn cute, don´t let us dissappear!

November 21, 2009

Endangered Squirrel Monkey in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Literally everyday I have the pleasure of being visited by one of the cutest little jungle creatures you will ever encounter……the friendly Titi or Squirrel Monkeys of Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.  The particular species that swings through our trees, climbs on our roofs, and even occasionally gets in our houses are found ONLY in the Manuel Antonio area.  Our blessing, is this little monkeys curse though, as with continued development in the surrounding areas of Manuel Antonio & Quepos, these beautiful little animals have slowly been completely cutoff from their natural wildlife corredor, meaning the Titis of Manuel Antonio no longer have anywhere else to go!  This not only limits their ability to naturally flourish, but results in an elevated level of inbreeding, more sickness, and a weakening of the species over time, putting in danger this species´ long term existence. 

Easily recognized by their soft light brown body furr, adorable little white with black facial bigotes, long brown with bushy black tipped tails, and friendly incesant chatter, their tiny size and endearing faces draw oohs and ahhs from all that encounter them, making them clearly one of the main attractions in and around Manuel Antonio National Park, located on the Central Pacific Coast of tropical Costa Rica. 

In search of a way to minimize the negative impact that this situation has caused, several local community organizations have emerged to help in the protection of this special little monkey.  One of the most prominent in our area is www.kidssavingtherainforest.org.  Some of their many objectives, has been the creation of ¨monkey bridges¨ throughout the area.  These thick ropes are strategically placed where the monkeys naturally arrive to cross roads, highways or locations that have a large amount of electrical, phone, or other types of cables, or where the vegetation is not sufficient for monkeys to safely traverse.  This helps the monkeys avoid electrocution, or from the creatures having to come down from the trees to continue their journey, a move that would make them terribly susceptible to predators, as well as other modern environmental hazards.  This organization has also published an excellent list of 10 reasons why you should NOT feed the monkeys, which most hotels, restaurants and other businesses post in their establishments to help educate the community and the visiting tourists about the negative impact feeding the monkeys has.

Another excellent organization developed specifically for the protection of the Titi Monkey is www.titiconservationalliance.org.   Their mission is to work to protect Costa Rica’s Central Pacific region through Sustainable Development, Habitat Reforestation, and Environmental Education.  Started by local business owners and environmental and animal enthusiasts, this important group tirelessly fights for the protection of the Titi Monkeys and their habitat.

For those of you coming to Costa Rica, or if you have been trying to decide where to go on your next vacation, consider the Manuel Antonio area of this beautiful country, where not only will you have the opportunity to see these endangered little Squirrel Monkeys, but where many businesses will donate a portion of what you spend in our area directly for the Squirrel Monkey´s protection, so future generations will be able to enjoy the ¨Mono Titi¨ too! 

Author:  Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years.  Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.  Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the  Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.

Getting ¨Casado¨ in Costa Rica. No, not married….read on!

November 20, 2009

The delicious and filling "Casado" in Costa Rica.

If you are looking for one of the best and tasty deals to be found in Costa Rica, think about getting ¨married¨.  Wait, wait, wait, no need to run screaming, ¨married¨ is the English translation for the most popular dish in all of Costa Rica…..the ¨Casado¨, where rice and beans are ¨married¨, and served with other common local ingredients.

To be perfectly honest, Costa Rican cuisine is not a show stopper, in fact it can be downright plain for those that prefer to challenge their palate, but that doesn’t mean it is not good or that you will not enjoy eating like the locals do. In Costa Rica, rice and beans are the standard ¨Tico¨ fare, and they are generally consumed in some form or another in all three daily meals, and it is a great a nutritious option. 

Starting with the ubiquitous ¨Gallo Pinto¨ (painted rooster) served for breakfast, this delicious and filling mix of rice and beans, chopped cilantro, sweet chili, and onion is served almost every morning with sour cream and/or the famous ¨Lizano Salsa¨, along side eggs, tortillas, and perhaps a slice of cheese, and followed later in the day by the ¨Casado¨.

Served at almost any ¨Soda¨ be it the Pacific Coast, the Caribbean Coast or everywhere in between, the ¨Casado¨ is always your best bet while visiting Costa Rica.  Most commonly this popular ¨typical¨ dish consists of a chopped cabbage and tomato salad, fried sweet plantains, picadillo (a mix of chopped potatoes, carrots, green beans in a light tomato sauce), a choice of chicken, fish, or meat, often times a hard-boiled egg and/or a slice of fresh salty, slightly smelly white cheese, and of course…..don’t forget the rice and beans! 

For anyone thinking this does not sound particularly appetizing, you will be pleasantly surprised, as the ¨Casado¨ is not only delicious, but it is a plate load of food worthy of two appetites.  There are economic reasons for the creation of this ¨tipico¨ dish.  Though richer than some of its neighbors, Costa Rica is nonetheless still considered a poor country, and its native residents never had the money to develop a sophisticated cuisine or palate as their culinary tradition evolved over the decades.  Thus this cheap and nutritious marriage of rice and beans caught on as the typical ¨workman´s lunch¨.

For those of you who are worried about the safety of food in Costa Rica or their ¨Sodas¨, you needn’t be overly concerned. Costa Rica doesn’t have the risks that many other Central American countries are known for, but there are a couple of things that you should keep in mind while visiting.  Pesticide control is not as strict as the USA, so wash fruit and vegetables before eating them and if you’re eating something that’s peeled, it’s best if it was you that peeled it.  Also, when deciding to eat out, the fancier restaurants are not always the cleanest, so in fact, eating where the locals eat is often the safest way to go. 

So the next time you find yourself driving the back roads of Costa Rica (they all feel like back roads in Costa Rica), we highly recommend you try the ¨Casado¨ to not only fill your hungry belly, but to avoid putting a dent in your wallet, leaving more money to take home that famous Costa Rican coffee! 

The other ¨married¨ you were thinking of?…….Well we’ll just leave that decision up to you!

Author:  Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years.  Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.  Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the  Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.