Posted tagged ‘manuel antonio national park’

Costa Rica’s Juan Santamaria Day! Brave Martyr or Brazen Myth?

April 10, 2014

Juan Santamaría, an impoverished drummer boy, born of a single mother from the town of Alajuela, is easily the most famous martyr in Costa Rican history, and the only individual to have a National Holiday (April 11) declared in his honor. But was it really Juan Santamaria that saved the day at the Battle of Rivas, or was it more to do with Costa Rica’s need to have a national hero? Read on….

If legend is to be believed, as a result of the Battle of Rivas on April 11th, 1856, Juan Santamaria’s selfless act as his country’s impromptu savior brought his eventual rise to glory, fame and martyrdom as he succeeded in saving Costa Rica against the infamous US sponsored invasion of the soldier of fortune style militia of William Walker.

William Walker, a lawyer, doctor and soldier of fortune from Tennessee, hoping to not only exploit the commercial trade route between New York and the Southern tip of Nicaragua, Walker also hoped to conquer the five Central American States with the intention to annex them, extending the new Federation of Southern States, part of the US. Walker and his “filibusteros” (soldiers of fortune) with his new post as a shaky provisional President of Nicaragua planned to instill his political and financial power over the Central American territories, with the next logical step being the invasion of nearby Costa Rica.

Fearing Walker’s growing force in Nicaragua, Costa Rican President Juan Rafael Mora supported by the backing of wealthy American businessmen who wanted their important trading routes reopened, was urged to declare war not on Nicaragua, but on Walker and his filibusters. Furious, Walker ordered the immediate invasion of Costa Rica, crossing the border into the province of Guanacaste, while the Costa Rican army mobilized full speed ahead Northward from the Central Valley. This rag tag army, led by the President’s brother Jose Joaquin Mora and brother-in-law General Jose Cañas, with their contingent of three thousand men marched towards the Walker encampment said to be assembled near the now famous Hacienda Santa Rosa, south of Nicaragua. Upon learning of their imminent arrival, Walkers men made a hasty retreat, taking the battle to Meson de Guerra in Rivas.

That is where Juan Santamaría prominently steps into the picture.

Walker’s men, under the command of Colonel Louis Schlessinger, had no sentries posted in the Rivas fort, allowing Mora’s Costa Rican troops to surprise the small American militia, as Schlessinger himself retreated, leaving his troops in complete disarray. When a bloody battle ensued, the commanding Costa Rican officer asked for a volunteer to set fire to thatch roof of the El Mesón de Guerra; the filibusters’ stronghold. Surely a suicide mission at best, it is said that Juan Santamaría, an impoverished mulatto drummer boy from the town of Alajuela, stepped up and with torch in hand, approached the hostel and through a hail of bullets, tossed his torch of fire onto the vulnerable thatched roof. This selfless patriotic act caused the enemy to flee, resulting in Juan Santamaria’s death, but leaving him a genuine National Hero.

The deaths of Juan Santamaría and more than a thousand other men saved Costa Ricaand Central America from a complete collapse. The Battle of Rivas put great confidence to the Costa Rican Army in the fight against Walker, who before this battle believed himself undefeatable and unstoppable, and lead to his later assassination in Honduras, during his next attempt at staging a Central American coup.

Although Costa Rica was victorious in the Battle of Rivas, the country did not return back to normal by any means. The numerous dead bodies were not buried in Rivas but were simply thrown into the wells, causing the city a huge outbreak of cholera from the contamination. The troops then carried the disease home with them to Costa Rica where it ravaged the country, killing as much as one tenth of the population. Mora was eventually blamed for the outbreak, as well as other economic problems, and was taken out of power a few years later in 1859.

This is where the dispute of the true legend of Juan Santamaria begins. Heated arguments and several investigations suggest that the well repeated history of Juan Santamaria may not be all it’s cracked up to. According to Steven Palmer, a Canadian researcher, Juan Santamaria was possibly invented by the Liberalist Costa Rican government. Palmer’s study suggests that the government in the late nineteenth
century was seeking to create a national identity in order to unify the disorganized country. Legends, heroes and battles, all helpful ingredients in the creation of a sense of national patriotism, the government set out to find something or someone that would serve its motivating purpose. Since Costa Rica lacks a history of warfare, the Liberalist government chose one of the few significant battles, the 1856 Battle of Rivas fought against William Walker. After choosing the famous battle, a brave hero was to be chosen as their new “symbol” for National unity. With this, Palmer says, Juan Santamaria was “born” or reborn after being dead and forgotten for many decades. That Juan Santamaria was a member of the lower classes, only served to inspire an even stronger sense of belonging to a nation that was coming of its own in world recognition, as Juan Santamaria showed anyone could become a National idol.

Further claims have been discovered that state Juan Santamaria actually died of cholera and not by the bullets of his enemies. Now granted, there are said to be listed four different Juan Santamarias amongst the some 9000 volunteer troops of Costa Rica, so this does open the door for some skepticism and confusion, but it is interesting to consider why Juan Santamaria lay buried for almost four decades, before being remembered and named Costa Rica’s National Hero.

Finally, other historical versions of the Battle of Rivas and the fight at the “Mesón de Guerra”, list the Lieutenant Luis Pacheco Bertora as the first to approach the fort with the idea of flushing out the enemy, but he was gravely injured by gunfire in his attempts. Lying unconscious, a Nicaraguan named Joaquín Rosales made a second attempt to burn the fort, but lost his life in the process. Finally, a third brave soldier stepped forward, the now well-known Costa Rican soldier, Juan Santamaría, who successfully set fire to the “meson” and saved the day for Costa Rica. None of these other brave soldiers have ever received the recognition due them as Juan Santamaria did, much less a National Holiday, statues or International Airports named after them, though the mystery behind the true history of these events lives on!

In the end, there is no attempt to minimize the participation of any of the soldiers involved in this battle, even less so Juan Santamaria. We only hope to give a shout out to all the valiant soldiers who gave their lives to win the liberty and sovereignty of Costa Rica, and to dispel of the rumor that Juan Santamaria was simply approaching the building, tripped and his fire torch accidentally started the fire that ended the battle.

Tell that later version out loud in Costa Rica, and you may be run out of the country even faster than William Walker was!!

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 owns and manages her own Luxury Vacation Rental Home Business, Manuel Antonio Rental Homes.

Sources:
Lisa Tirmenstein tirmenlb@muohio.edu.
http://www.Wikipedia.org
http://afehc-historia-centroamericana.org/index.php?action=fi_aff&id=1947
http://www.latindex.ucr.ac.cr/historia-51/10-Aguilar.pdf
http://wvw.nacion.com/ln_ee/2006/abril/28/opinion8.html

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A Bug with a Chastity Belt? Costa Rica’s Walking Stick Insect!!

February 24, 2014

When visiting Costa Rica, it is always wise to double check anything before grabbing it! Bugs, snakes, plants…..all have potential for a dangerous encounter if you are not careful! However, one of the most popular discoveries, if you even notice it while hiking, are the ubiquitous Walking Stick insects. Generally found in varying hues of green or brown, with some 3000 different species found around the World, a few species are actually able to change color slowly as needed to blend into their environs. These unique bugs have one of the best camouflage systems available in the wild, since these insects resemble the twigs and branches among which

they live, providing it with one of the best natural camouflages found on Earth.
Found predominantly in the tropics and subtropics, stick insects thrive in forests and grasslands, where they feed on mostly leaves. Mainly nocturnal creatures, they spend much of their day motionless, hiding under plant leaves from the hot sun or the strong rains that can come suddenly in the Tropics.

Local Walking Sticks can be as small as 1″ and reach lengths of 4”s, with males generally smaller than the females. The largest

North American species can grow to lengths of 7 inches, and there are recorded tropical species that can reach a whopping 22 inches! The insect’s legs and wings are attached to the middle section, or thorax, comprising the majority of the body, but a Walking Stick that loses one of those delicate legs is actually able to regenerate it, either completely or partially at its next molting.

Nocturnal and a bit on the shy side, the Walking Stick grazes on leaves of forest trees and if an area is invaded by a plague of

these insects, they can actually do major damage. With their incredible ability to hide themselves, these bugs have two reasons to use their camouflage – to hide and to hunt. Although their natural physical appearance aids in protecting them, Walking Sticks also

practice “behavioral camouflage.” During the day these bugs will usually be found with their front legs extended, while they keep their rear legs to the fore and aft of their body and remain either motionless or they gently sway with the breeze helping them to appear like a “real” branch or twig. Despite Mother Nature’s incredible camouflage job, many predators aren’t fooled and these bugs can be eaten by a variety of birds, rodents and mantises. Several species of Walking Sticks have added chemical warfare as a form of passive defense, squirting a highly irritating liquid into the face of a potential predator that can burn and even blind their enemies. Others will drop their legs when a predator attacks, but can re-grow the appendages, while some winged species will flash their bright color patches under the wings to confuse their predators and aid in avoiding capture.

Not known for a particularly impressive Mother instinct, the female Walking Sticks will drop their eggs randomly on the forest floor with little care as to where the eggs end up. Before you think this to be too callous, the truth is this actually works to their

benefit, as if a predator should happen upon a batch of insect eggs, they will eat them all, but with the mother Walking Stick strategy, there is a much better chance that at least some of the young will survive. Also, because a portion of the outside of each egg is edible, some species of ants will actually carry these eggs to their nests below-ground. The ants will only nibble the exterior of the egg, leaving the rest of the egg intact, enabling the tiny insect hatchlings to exit the ant hill to begin their lifecycle. From there, the Walking Stick’s metamorphosis is rather simple – the newly-hatched young resemble the finished adult product, simply growing and adding adult parts as they molt and continue to grow in size.
Formerly classified along with the Mantises genre and listed in the grasshopper Order (Orthoptera), Walking Sticks are now in their own Order, the Stick Insects or “Phasmatodea”.

So if you’ve read this far, and are still curious about where is the bug with a chastity belt?……another interesting factoid

about the Walking Stick insect includes their sex life. Fidelity is rare in the insect world, and a strategy used by male Walking Sticks to ensure the object of their affections does not court others, is the male Walking Sticks will remain in the embrace of a female long after copulation, becoming what we would consider “living chastity belts”! In fact, the record for long lasting copulation in the insect world seems to be held by the Walking Sticks…….an incredible 79 days!!

In the end, little is actually known about stick insects, making it difficult to establish the vulnerability of their status in the

wild. The pet trade presents a potential threat, along with the popular practice of framing their carcasses, like butterflies, so if you find a Walking Stick around your Costa Rica Hotel, Vacation Rental Home, or while hiking on one of the many fun Costa Rica tours, please enjoy their unique appearance, take a few pictures to remember the encounter, but by all means move on and leave this beautiful creature to continue in its natural environment and living the life of Pura Vida! Mother Nature thanks you in advance!!

Some interesting additional Walking Stick facts:
1. Stick insects can shed and regenerate their limbs to escape attacks by predators.
Should a bird or other predator grab a stick insect’s leg, the stick insect simply gives up the leg, using a special muscle to break it off at the weaker joint. Juvenile stick insects will regenerate the missing limb at the next molt. In some cases, adult stick insects can even force themselves to molt again to regenerate a lost leg.
2. Stick insects can reproduce “parthenogenetically”, meaning without the need for males.
Stick insects are able to reproduce almost entirely without males. Unmated females produce eggs that will become more females. When a male actually does manage to mate with a female, there’s a 50/50 chance the offspring will be male. A female stick insect can produce hundreds of all-female offspring without ever mating and there are species for which scientists have never found any males.
3. Stick insects not only look like sticks, they act like them, too.
Stick insects are named for their highly effective camouflage among the varied plants where they feed. They’re typically brown, black, or green, with stick-shaped bodies that help them blend in as they perch on forest twigs and branches. Some even bear lichen-like markings to make their disguise even more effective. Stick insects often choose to imitate twigs by swaying in the wind and rocking back and forth to look more genuine.
4. Stick insect eggs resemble seeds scattered about the forest floor.
Stick insect mothers aren’t known for their maternal instincts. They typically drop their eggs randomly on the forest floor, leaving the youngsters to whatever fate awaits them. However, by spreading the eggs out, the female lessens the chance that a predator will find all of her offspring and eat them. Some stick insects will actually hide their eggs sticking them to leaves or bark, or placing them in the soil in an effort to thwart the predators.
5. Nymphs usually eat their molted skin.
Once a nymph (or juvenile walking stick) has molted, it’s even more vulnerable to predators until its new cuticle darkens and hardens. The castoff skin nearby is a blatant giveaway to their enemies, so the nymph will quickly consume the dried exoskeleton to remove the evidence. The stick insect nymph also gets the benefit of the protein by eating its molted skin.
6. Stick insects don’t bite, but they aren’t defenseless.
If threatened, a stick insect will use whatever means necessary to repel its attacker. Some will regurgitate a nasty substance that will put a bad taste in a hungry enemies mouth. Others have a reflex bleed, oozing a foul-smelling hemolymph from joints in their body. Some of the large, tropical stick insects can use their leg spines to repel the enemies, and others may even direct a chemical spray, much like tear gas, at repel the offender.
7. Stick insect eggs may attract ants, which then collect and store the eggs in their nests.
Stick insect eggs that resemble hard seeds have a special, fatty capsule called a capitulum at one end. Ants enjoy the nutritional boost provided by the capitulum, and carry the stick insect eggs back to their nests to enjoy as a meal. Once the ants finish feeding on the proteins and nutrients, they leave the eggs to one side where they continue to incubate safely away from potential predators. As the nymphs hatch, they then make their way out of the ant nest to begin their life.
8. Not all stick insects are boring brown.
Some stick insects can change color, like a chameleon, depending on the background where they reside. Stick insects may also wear bright colors on their wings, but keep these flamboyant features tucked away until needed. When a bird or other predator approaches, the stick insect will flash the vibrant wings, which serves to confuse the predator which then has trouble locating its target.
9. Stick insects can play dead.
When all else fails, why not play dead? A threatened stick insect will sometimes abruptly drop to the ground, and stay very still. This behavior, called thanatosis, can successfully discourage predators who prefer live prey. A bird or mouse may be unable to find the immobile insect that matches quite effectively into the ground, or other predators prefer living prey and will move on if they think the insect is already dead.
10. Stick insects hold the record for longest insects in the world.
In 2008, a newly discovered stick insect species from Borneo broke the record for longest insect (which had previously been held by another stick insect, Pharnacia serratipes). The Chan’s megastick, Phobaeticus chain, measures an incredible 22 inches when the legs are extended, with a body length of an average 14 inches. Ew!!!

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 owns and manages her own Costa Rica Vacation Rental Home business Manuel Antonio Rental Homes.

The Tourist Tree? The Naked Indian Tree? It’s the Gumbo Limbo Tree in Costa Rica!

February 7, 2014

Living in the rainforest in Costa Rica means being surrounded by an abundance of interesting trees. One of my personal favorites is the Gumbo Limbo tree! A wildly popular tropical tree, it is native to the southeastern United States, but found widely throughout the Americas, West Indies and especially prominent in Costa Rica. This tree easily adapts to a variety of both dry and moist habitats, and is a fairly salt-tolerant species, enabling this tree to be found along most coastlines including around the Hotels of Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. Though consisting of a fairly soft wood, the Gumbo Limbo is considered a very wind-tolerant tree, making this species a good choice for hurricane or extreme weather areas.


This fast-growing canopy tree reaches heights of 50-60 feet and more, with a trunk that bears a striking color of green and red, with a thin paper like exfoliating bark. The Gumbo Limbo or Bursera Simaruba, goes by several aliases, such as the Spirit Gum, Birch Gum, Turpentine, Naked Indian, or more commonly named in popular vacation destinations…..the “Tourist Tree”, because of its red color and peeling skin!

The Gumbo-limbo is generally planted for shade and ornamental use in front or backyards, can be found along streets and highways, but it is also commonly used throughout Costa Rica as a “living fence” since it easily sprouts from cut branches that are stuck into the ground. With it’s naturally rapid growth, within no time farmers have a strong, natural, eco-friendly fence with which they can corral their livestock and mark their land.

The arils (or etable part surrounding the seed) provides an important source of food for winter migrating birds, including many migrants from North America, as well as local residents such as the Masked Tityra, Bright-rumped Attila, and Black-faced Grosbeak, the Baltimore Oriole, Dusky-capped Flycatcher and many species of Vireos. Additionally, Gumbo-limbo’s rapid growth, easy and low cost of propagation, and it’s ecological versatility make this species an ideal “starter” tree for reforestation projects.

There are so many more natural benefits to this great tree, as the sticky, turpentine-scented resin has been used for centuries for making glue, varnish, liniments, as well as a water resistant coating for dugout canoes. The aromatic sap is also used as an anti-inflammatory, a treatment for gout, a form of incense, as well as the leaves are brewed to make a medicinal tea for a wide variety of ailments. The bark is also considered a treatment against rashes caused by plants such as poison ivy and poison oak. Though the actual wood of the tree is rather soft and spongy, this versatile wood is traditionally used to manufacture the colorful carousel horses you see at county fairs, and other small wood products such as matchsticks, toothpicks, charcoal, boxes, crates, and interior trim have also been made from the Gumbo-Limbo wood.

Tribal or Native Indian medicinal uses include remedies for skin infections, skin sores, ingesting a bark tea for urinary tract infections, pain, colds, flu, sun stroke, fevers and to purify the blood. A length of bark about 5 cm x 30 cm is boiled in a gallon of water for 10 minutes or so for these local remedies and then used topically or can be sipped as a tea 2-3 times per day. Not only is it touted to provide the above medicinal remedies, but it is also said to kill bacteria, stop excessive bleeding, increase urination, increase perspiration, cleanse the blood, neutralize various venoms, helpful as a cough expectorate, reducing fevers and my favorite remedy…..increasing libido!!

So when out hiking, exploring, or just taking a drive around Costa Rica, no more passing that Gumbo Limbo tree and not even giving it a second thought. Just look at how much one can do and “cure” with this beautiful and unique tree!

But my friends…..you have been warned!!!! None of these uses are FDA approved, so please do not try these remedies at home! At least not without a Shaman present!!

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 owns her own Vacation Rental Home company on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica at Manuel Antonio Rental Homes.
Sources:
http://www.sfrc.ufl.edu/4h/Gumbo-limbo/gumblimb.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bursera_simaruba
http://www.regionalconservation.org/beta/nfyn/plantdetail.asp?tx=Burssima
http://www.plantcreations.com/bursera_simaruba.htm

Sportfishing in Costa Rica…..Some Hints to Finding the Fish!

January 12, 2014

With well over 750 miles of coastline to explore, anglers coming to Costa Rica have a multitude of options to try their luck for both inshore and offshore sport fishing in this marine rich part of the world. It’s a big ocean out there, and if you don’t know what you are doing you can spend a whole day driving around burning expensive gas and finding absolutely nothing to put a bite on a hook! The main key to a successful day of offshore or inshore fishing is frankly knowing where and how to find the fish!

Naturally, there is no substitute for local expertise when it comes to finding fish, they live and breath the sport and no one

wants you to have a good fishing day more than your Captain and First Mate, so count on them for the best results! Every good captain knows where to find the fish, but if you are out for a day on your own, or if you are practicing to become the next best fishing captain for your next lifetime, you may find the following information helpful while exploring some new (or old) fishing grounds.
The first and foremost important tip for finding the fish is watch for Variation. Variation can come in several forms, some of them very obvious and others more subtle, so here are some helpful hints for you in case you are headed out for a day of great fishing action!

Los Corrientes (The currents)
The most tried and true method to finding gamefish in Costa Rica is fishing in “los corrientes”. These currents can be

spotted by a subtle change in color and in the temperature of the water. Baitfish and predators tend to be more plentiful in these currents, so an experienced captain will generally work the edges of “los corrientes” to see how the action is going before moving on to other options. When fishing from the areas of Quepos, Jaco, or Herradura, charters will find “los corrientes” about twenty-five to thirty miles offshore during peak billfish season and will generally head that direction to start their day. For that reason, it is almost always recommended to plan at least a 3/4 to Full Day of fishing to allow enough time to get into the really thick action!

Ocean Floor Geography
Invisible to the naked eye, the underwater geopgraphic structures such as canyons, reefs and other natural formations can increase

the flow of ocean currents, increasing the chance of good angling or even extreme angling in particular areas. The rapidly moving currents can trap bait fish allowing the large game fish to move in seeking an easy feeding session on the trapped bait. Similar to the seasonal currents, these fish rich currents are often found by looking for subtle changes in the water color or surface ocean temperatures. Professional and experienced Sport Fishing Charter Captains for the Costa Rican shores will always have one eye on the bottom (think GPS) and one eye on the surface looking for those subtle changes that are going to lead them to their prize.

Floating Debris
The rainy season in Costa Rica may not be the favored months for hooking the larger Gamefish (though they are prevelent year round,

so don’t let the rainy season scare you away!), but it is the hottest time of year for Dorado, including Bull Dorado which can often times come in weighing over fifty pounds! Since the heavy rains in the mountains of Costa Rica run out the local rivers located in the Quepos, Jaco and

Herradura areas, the experienced fisherman knows that fish love structure and obstacles, even temporary formations resulting from debris washing out to sea from the rain swollen rivers, so its always a good idea to head that way. Fishing deep around areas such as weed lines, floating pallets, or logs can yield a great Dorado hit, meaning a possible great dinner will be on the table that night! Other game fish can be found beneath the debris as well, so this is an area that is especially worth an anglers undivided attention!!

Underwater Structure
Wrecks and reefs provide structure or should we say a vacation home getaway for large bottom fish including Cubera Snapper and Grouper. This so called structure is also home to plankton and other small organisms that serve to attract baitfish which in turn attract the bigger game fish on the prowl for an easy meal. Keep in mind…..the main structure area may be overfished, while potential surrounding “satellite” sites around the structure can often be teaming with life as well, so keep your eyes and your fishing lines open. Larger Gamefish often hang out at these quieter satellite sites, so work that whole area for best results.

Slicks

Its a big ocean out there, but sometimes you can see obvious “slicks” on the surface, so keep your eye out for any and all oily slicks on the water’s surface since these can often be a good sign for hungry for action anglers. Big game fish such as Dorado, Tuna, Marlin and Sailfish when feeding are chasing bait fish to the surface which releases fish oils, resulting in the “slicks” that you may witness. If you are lucky, this very slick could hold the trophy catch you have been seeking!

Birds

Offshore birds are always fishing in Costa Rica, so it is always a good idea to keep an eye on the sky as well! Searching for bait pods, tuna feeding, or trolling Billfish, pay particular attention to the many Frigate Birds who are great spotters, especially those that are circling in one particular location. The experienced fishing guide knows that even a lone Frigate Bird can lead you to a trophy Tuna, Marlin or Sailfish.

With prices high and time limited during a Costa Rica visit, when fishing offshore in our gamefish rich waters of Costa Rica, the

importance of local expertise cannot be overstated. Natural underwater geographic structures are consistent and well know and local Costa Rica Fishing Guides now have the ability to record the best fishing spots to GPS, giving them the edge when fishing for big game fish in these open waters…..something someone who does not live in the area is never going to know about. In addition, an experienced captain and mate will have developed keen eyes and experience, with some experienced Captains and First Mates able to spot schooling Tuna miles away just by looking for disturbed water and many of the other hints listed above.

So on your next Sportfish outing while fishing in Costa Rica (or wherever!), keep the above hints in mind for best results, and

be sure to find out more about Pacific fish species, fishing seasons, fishing reports, and the local weather conditions beforehand by checking out our link on fishing in the Quepos, Costa Rica area via your local Costa Rica Vacation House Rental or Costa Rica Hotel, where they are happy to steer you in the right direction for an unforgettable day of Game fishing in an area that still boasts some 17 IGFA World Records! You could be the next World Record Holder!! FISH ON!!!!

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 owns and operates her own Costa Rica Vacation Rental Home business at Manuel Antonio Rental Homes!

Alert!! Don’t be a “Fool” this December when in Costa Rica!

November 29, 2013

Are you a fool every day, just on April fool’s Day, or surprise!…. you could be proven a fool while in Costa Rica in late December! December 28th in Costa Rica is “Dia de Los Inocentes” (Day of the Innocents), commonly considered “Fool’s Day”, which to us North Americans is customarily celebrated on April 1st, also commonly known as April Fool’s Day in the United States.

Did you fall for any pranks or jokes on December 28th? Did you get caught off guard?? Costa Rican’s love to pull off large and small pranks on their friends and family on this yearly day of tom-foolery. Everything from the simplest of jokes, to the common gesture of putting a sign on your back that might reads “kick me” or “looking for love”, to more vulgar jokes such as wrapping dog poop in toilet paper, lighting it on fire and waiting for the nearest “Innocent” to stomp out the fire, or another favorite in our humid climate, leaving a melting chocolate candy on someone’s seat so when they sit down, it later looks like they pooped in their pants when they rise. All pretty funny, as long as you are not the innocent fool!!

The history of “Dia de Los Inocentes” dates back some 2000 years. The origin of the “Day of the Innocent Saints” is very different in modern times from it’s previous inception as the day in which there was a slaughter of all male children of 2 years or younger. Ordered by King Herodes, he was voted King of the Jews by the Roman Senate, and was considered the Roman Client King of Israel. Not to be confused with his son, Herod Antipas, also of the Herodian dynasty, the elder Herod is known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem and other parts of the ancient world, including the rebuilding of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, sometimes referred to as Herod’s Temple. He was described as “a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis.” Herod is reported in the Gospel of Matthew as personally ordering the Massacre of the Innocents. Most recent biographers do not actually regard this as an actual historical event, though the legend lives on and scripture has been found that could support the legend.

According to Matthew, shortly after the birth of Jesus, Magi (the three wise men) from the East visiting Herod to inquire as to the whereabouts of “the one having been born king of the Jews”, as they had seen his star in the East and therefore wanted to pay him homage. Herod, who himself was considered King of the Jews, was alarmed at the prospect of a newborn king possibly usurping his rule one day. In the story, Herod assembled the chief priests and scribes of the people and asked them where the “Anointed One” was to be born. Their answer, Bethlehem. Herod then sent the Magi to Bethlehem, instructing them to search for the child and after finding him, to “report to me, so that I too may go and worship him”. However, after they had found Jesus, the Magi were warned in a dream not to report back to Herod. Upon realizing that they would not communicate the exact location of the birth of Jesus, an infuriated Herodes ordered the massacre of all boys two years and under in Bethlehem and its outlying areas.

In regards to the Massacre of the Innocents, although in reality Herod was certainly guilty of many brutal acts, including the killing of his wife and two of his sons, no other known source from that period makes any references to such a massacre. Since Bethlehem was a small village, the number of male children under the age of 2, would probably not have exceeded 20 or so. This could be one of the reasons for the lack of other sources for this questionable account of history, although Herod’s order in Matthew 2-16 includes those children in Bethlehem’s vicinity meaning the massacre area could have measured a significantly larger amount numerically and geographically more in the area of some 14,000 children. The infants, known in the Church as the Holy Innocents, have been claimed as the first Christian martyrs.

How this turned into an annual celebration of trickery remains a mystery. It is said that during the Middle Ages, pagan rites were introduced in to the celebration that for some time came to be known as the “Celebration of the Crazy People” (“Dia de Los Locos”).

It was celebrated between Christmas and New Year, a direct show of the significance of Jewish and Christian sentiments during the holy season. Out of this shift in sentiment, over time a new tradition began that combined the underlying pagan sentiment with and the light hearted Christian monks teachings, with the main purpose of the day being the moment to pull all types of pranks on unsuspecting family and friends. Pranks are known as “inocentadas” and their victims are called “inocentes”, or alternatively, the pranksters are the “inocentes” and the victims should not be angry at them, since they could not have committed any sin. It is still not understood how such a morbid historical event could be converted over the centuries to celebrate a completely opposite sentiment and will likely remain a mystery to all.

So if you find yourself in most any Latin American country on December 28th, don’t be surprised if you are the butt of someone’s joke. Be warned, the Costa Rican culture has a wonderful sense of humor, meaning no one is safe on this day FOOL!!

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 owns and operates her own Costa Rica Vacation Rental Homes business calledManuel Antonio Rental Homes.

Geckos of Costa Rica…..Friend, Foe or Both?

October 22, 2013

If you are planning a visit or to live in Costa Rica, you had best make peace with the local Gecko population. Hearty little lizards, they are ubiquitous throughout the country and although they are not always a welcome sight to all, you need to rethink this as they are actually working on your behalf!

The first encounter I had with Geckos when I arrived to beautiful Costa Rica was at night as we sat quietly rocking our chairs on

the porch enjoying the warm evening tropical breezes. As we watched, the overhead lights literally became the local pub crawl for the Geckos who would happily belly up to the insect bar and make a quick meal of hapless species that sadly were lower on the food chain than these cute little lizards. Although considered nocturnal, that does not mean that these little guys don’t work around the clock, as you will likely see them any time of the day or night working on lowering the abundant tropical insect population.

Not previously having planned on my life being inhabited by a flurry of tiny meat eating mini-dinosaurs, it took a little time to get used to my new found friends and embrace their helpful presence which includes them periodically making a sound that is distinctly like they are laughing at you, as well as their constant deposit of poopy gecko presents. I’m not particularly big on that part!

It is said that having Geckos in your house is actually a good omen. Whether that is true or not is up for dispute, but the fact that these lizards are handy little pest controllers is impossible to argue after you have seen them in action.

 

These little lizards ability to scurry up a wall, hang upside down from a roof or beam, cling to all surface types including wood, glass, metal, plastic, fabric, etc, as well as maneuver on smooth, bumpy or even wet surfaces is bound to make even the biggest lizard skeptic find a new admiration for these versatile little critters.

Happy little guys, if you are sitting around and hear a surprisingly loud laughing sound…..incredibly, its the Geckos! How can you not fall in love with little lizards that laugh while they work? Its really quite astonishing the hearty chuckle that comes from these little reptiles! They are said to make this hee hee hee sound when defending their territory or for calling mates, but sometimes I suspect they are just laughing at me! (Do I sound paranoid?) Click here to hear one!

Geckos are also hearty little pro-creators. The females normally lay two eggs at a time in secure hidden places that can sometimes

include inside an old pair of shoes, between clothes not worn for some time, covey holes of walls and closets, window moldings and any number of surprise spots that the little

white eggs might tumble out of when least expected. Since they will often lay eggs in a community spot for more security, it can be quite a little scrambled egg mess when sliding an unsuspecting foot in the old shoe full of pebble sized eggs. Ew. Just another good reason (excuse?) to wear flip flops daily! Surviving Gecko eggs will take anywhere from 5-8 weeks to incubate, and these little guys can plan on a life span of around 7-9 years total.

Truly one of the most fascinating aspects of the Gecko life is their unique ability to climb and stick to just about anything! Most

people think or assume they have suction toes that allow them to cling. Although some species do, upon closer examination to many of the most common Geckos, they do not have cup shaped toes that allow them to push air out and stick. Okay, so you might think its the power of friction helping them stick to walls, However, that becomes hard to explain when they are hanging completely upside down from the roof and not making any friction. Sticky feet would seem like the most logical answer, however upon scientific study, Geckos don’t have any glands to

produce a sticky like substance, so rule that hypothesis out. So how do they do it? Scientists have wondered the same things for years and upon further study they have discovered that the magic lies in the interaction between molecules. Scientists call this the “Van der Waals Force“. Say what?? Through further examination, it would appear that each Gecko toe has a network of millions of tiny hairs (Setae) that are tipped with tiny little pads that produce

a molecular reaction that makes those microscopic little pads work like little sticky hooks. Combine that with the recent discovery that these lizards have a special secretial gland that allows them to absorb and secrete liquid at the same time and this combines to make this little fellers even stronger than a steroid soaked bodybuilder training for the Olympics! In fact, Geckos are so strong they can even hang from a single toe!! Quite a feat for such a small creature and even more so for a reptile! I wonder if we should be harnessing this knowledge and ability for more useful purposes in our normal day to day life?

If variety is the spice of life, then there is plenty of spice in Costa Rica! Geckos can be found on almost every continent except Antartica (they’re not big on cold), but Costa Rica and its warm temps are definitely the perfect tropical home for these little guys. Of the 750 species found worldwide, Costa Rica boasts 9 Gecko species within its borders. Coming in a variety of colors, sizes and habitats, the only negative thing I can say about the Geckos is they are sadly not potty trained. Depositing their little (and sometimes not so little) white & black poopy pile wherever they desire is definitely one of the negative sides of the whole

Gecko experience. Be forewarned……they have no problem and I suspect may even aim to sometimes leave their “deposit” right on your unsuspecting person. I have been poo bombed by many a Gecko over the many years I have lived in Costa Rica, and though I am not happy about it, when you watch these cute litte guys and their insect killing ability, as well as hear that enthusiastic laugh they share, its hard not to find them to still be one of the more appealing members of the reptile family!

Beyond the Gecko’s excellent insect control capabilities, they possess other distinctive characteristics that are rather endearing.

Geckos have the ability to camouflage themselves by changing their colors to help them blend into their environment while hunting for food. They also can change their colors to reflect emotions such as fear, excitement or anger. Therefore, if you see a red faced gecko….I guess it would be best to play it safe and give it a wide berth! Another rather impressive characteristic of the Gecko is their ability to detach their

tail. Got someone hot on your ass? Just detach that tail and leave them something to chew on while you escape to grow a new one. Must be handy, and crooks would love that ability! Lastly, the third amazing characteristic is the ability to change the aperture of the pupil of the eye while in bright

sunlight to be a single vertical row of pinhole openings making the iris resemble the color of their skin. In fact, the majority of Geckos actually lack eyelids and instead have a transparent membrane which they lick to clean. They also possess an incredible night vision capability with their eyes being some 350 times more sensitive to light than the human eye. Pretty handy abilities for increasing their overall Gecko warrior abilities and pretty cool stuff for a mini reptile looking to survive in the Costa Rican jungles (or in my house)!!

So are you impressed yet? Well you should be, as these little creatures have managed to evolve and perfect their talents to become some of the most efficient jungle inhabitats to be found! So on your next vacation, be sure to watch around your Costa Rica hotels, homes, sodas or jungle areas for the opportunity to observe, befriend and photograph your new little lizard companions. Not only will they laugh along with you, but they will make every effort to keep you mosquito bite free! So it just goes to show….it’s not just the “Ticos” that are friendly, their lizards are friendly too!! Now that surely is another sign of Pura Vida!!

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 owns her own Costa Rica Vacation Rental Homes business, Manuel Antonio Rental Homes.

“Carnavales” in the City of Limon: An Annual Costa Rican Tradition!

September 27, 2013

When: October 11-21, 2013 (annual event)
Where: Limón
Cost: Free
Hours: All hours!!

If you are planning a visit or vacation in Costa Rica soon, Costa Rica’s port town of Limón on the Caribbean side of the country, converts to an all out party every October to celebrate “Carnaval”! Vaguely disguised around celebrating Columbus Day (October 12th) or “Dia de Las Culturas” (as we know it in Costa Rica), locals as well as every strange character you can think of join together in the overconsumption of alcohol, while dancing and parading the streets of Limon to the popular Latin beats of blaring Calypso, Reggae, Samba, Salsa and many other tropical rhythms! A good time is generally guaranteed, all in the name of history, culture and a legitimately good reason to Party!

Background of Limon:
Limon (Spanish for Lemon) is the largest “city” on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, as well as the center for Costa Rica’s largest commercial shipping port in nearby Moin. Serving as the capital city of the Limon Province, Christopher Columbus set anchor in 1502. It is said that Limon was named after the large lemon tree that used to grow where the City Hall is now located, but that rumor has not substantiated over the years.
Also known at the Pearl of the Caribbean, Limon is an exotic province characterized by the friendly openness of its culturally diverse population, as well as the richness of its Afro-Caribbean customs.
Limon’s economy is based primarily on banana, cacao and pineapple production and exportation, as well as the raising of cattle, though the yearly cruise ship season brings a large influx of tourism to the area. Considered to have the largest population of black people in all of Costa Rica, the Afro-Caribbean culture derives from mostly Jamaican descent. Originally brought to this area as slaves to build the railway connecting the Atlantic coastline with the Central Plateau (San Jose) for the shipping of goods by land, a large Chinese immigrant population also remains from this same ambitious project.

Highlights of “Carnaval”:
The first Carnaval (that is the correct spelling for Costa Rica), was held in 1949 and was the brainchild of the late Alfred Henry King and friends, who felt it was a good opportunity to unite the Costa Rican culture (originally descendents from Spain) together with the primarily black Caribbean Culture (mostly African, Caribbean and Chinese descendents), which had suffered strained relationships throughout Costa Rican history. In just over 60 years, the Carnavales de Limon is now considered the most popular Festival in the entire country. It’s interesting that Costa Rica does not celebrate Columbus arriving to “America”; it celebrates the uniting of cultures. Pretty forward thinking!
During Carnaval, throngs of people line the streets to watch and cheer on the “beauty queens”, loud marching bands, and to see the brightly colored costumes of the “Comparsas”. Colorfully dressed and adorned coordinated dance troupes, the Comparsas wildly and skillfully shake their booties (booties of ALL ages and ALL sizes!!)to the loud tropical beats of mostly Brazilian Samba & Latin Salsa for miles and miles. It is quite a loud drum banging, hip swinging, cuchi cuchi type show, worth the 2.5 hour drive from San Jose!

My own Adventures at Carnaval:
Having lived on the Caribbean coast for 10 years, I have had the pleasure to personally attend Carnaval. Beyond the great live music throughout the 10 days of the event, one of my favorite parts (and there are many) is the Carnaval Infantil (Children’s Parade). Large macho men run around wearing large “muumuu” style dresses with HUGE handcrafted masks on their heads (see picture).
The “Mascaradas” as they are known, consist of men who play a game known as “Rass’em”. The lucky guy wearing the large mask (check out the peep hole in the picture, so they can see where they are going) chases the other men in the group, and when he is caught, the next guy has to put on the mask and dress and start parading around. A pretty amazing sight for this “macho” society, and really quite entertaining, if not a little creepy!
At night, the Limón Carnaval really comes to life! It’s like an enormous block party with everything located outside in the warm tropical air, just like a county fair, only A LOT crazier!! Rows and rows of booths (or “chinamos” as they are called here) of food, drink, handicrafts, local delicacies (more on those later), and dance floors dot the area and there are always people dancing in the streets (literally)! I personally love the Reggae music coming out of houses, offices and every corner of the city, that is my kind of music “mon”. My biggest challenge is trying to understand the Jamaican Creole dialect. I speak English and am fluent in Spanish, fortunately so are most of the inhabitants of Limon, as otherwise, I would be at a loss for much of what they are saying in their unique dialect. Whoppin? (What’s happening?) Watcha got? (What time is it?) Just a few examples that caused initial confusion on my part, but now seem a natural part of conversation!

The Food of Limon:
Visitors have not had the full Limon experience and definitely not the Carnaval experience without trying some true, authentic Caribbean style food. First and foremost, you must try the “Rice and Beans”. This is not your everyday “gallo pinto”, though it does look the part. This “rice and beans” is made with coconut milk, and if you are really lucky, has a touch of the super hot Panamanian Chilies thrown in for a surprise kick. Some other favorites of the area are the ubiquitous “Pan Bon”, similar

to Christmas Fruitcake in the USA and just as nasty to me, as well as “Pati”, a wannabe tasty empanada and Patacones (double fried Plantains), everything’s better fried!! Am I right? My very favorite has to be…… (drum roll please)…..”cajeta”. A delicious coconut candy with the texture of very firm fudge, this candy can be found sold on almost every street corner, store, bus stop or “chinamo” throughout the City. (I have some stashed in my refrigerator right now.)

In Summary:
If you haven’t had the good fortune to visit the Province of Limon during your Costa Rica vacation, it’s not just about the beaches to the South, or the endangered Marine Turtles to the North! The actual City of Limon is worth a visit, and I can’t think of a better or more exciting time to visit the area then during the yearly celebration of Carnaval!

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.

Sources:
http://www.whatsonwhen.com/sisp/index.htm?fx=event&event_id=166975
http://www.yourtravelmap.com/costarica/limon/index.php
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lim%C3%B3n_Province
http://www.crtraveler.com/articulo.php?id=100
http://www.bukisa.com/articles/28152_limn-carnaval-in-costa-rica-
http://www.insiderslimon.com/CH1Page.html (Photo & Audio credits, please support their cause!)
http://alegresmascaradas.blogspot.com/
http://www.costaricaway.net/artcaribe/pdf/gentecultura.pdf