La Negrita was flown by helicopter to towns this past weekend to accomodate those who would have made the pilgrimage to Cartago on August 2nd. They were prohibited from doing so by the Minister of Health who cancelled the annual event due to the threat of the H1N1 virus.
Due to the H1N1 virus, the annual pilgrimage – romería – to Cartago was cancelled this year. I was told that a statue of the Virgin of Los Angeles would be carried through towns, but I don’t know if that is a rumor or the truth. Over a million people make the annual trek to Cartago, many of them on their knees. Without a doubt, there will be fewer sore feet tomorrow morning than there were last year!
On Tuesday, President Arias and the Secretary of Health responded to the swine flu pandemic by signing an emergency health declaration giving health professionals in Costa Rica the authority to implement whatever measures necessary to prevent the spread of the virus. To date, there have been two confirmed cases and thirty-five suspected cases in Costa Rica. The medical community anticipates more cases in the coming days and weeks.
The Costa Rican government has urged people to avoid the traditional cheek kiss upon greeting one another. (Hopefully, everyone has gotten the message so no one is offended if I avoid this friendly overture.) Shaking hands is out too, unless, like Monk, you have a “wipe” handy to use immediately afterwards.
Remember: Cover your mouth if you sneeze or cough and wash your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol sanitizer. This holds especially true when you are out in public. The virus can live on surfaces for several hours so a grocery cart, door handle or handrail at a mall can harbor the virus left several hours earlier by an infected person.
This is a global issue. Hopefully, the dire predictions will not materialize and the virus will cease to be a threat very quickly.
In his editorial today in the NY Times, Thomas Friedman applauded Costa Rica’s commitment to protecting the environment. Although he may have been subjected to a bit of propaganda during his recent visit, Costa Rica has been making more concerted efforts to reverse and impede destruction of the environment, particularly at the beaches. It appears that the government is working to improve its monitoring and enforcement of land use restrictions. Hotels have been given warnings or been closed due to improper sewage treatment. Structures illegally built or without proper permits have been removed. It’s about time! Hopefully, this trend will continue and the country’s precious eco-system will be preserved. Costa Rica’s beauty, flora and fauna are unparalleled and should be carefully guarded.
Here’s a link to Mr. Friedman’s article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/12/opinion/12friedman.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=friedman%20costa%20rica&st=cse
(Unfortunately, I must have been out when Mr. Friedman called to drop by for coffee. Rats! Maybe next time. I seem to miss Mel Gibson’s calls when he’s here, too.)
Just in case you missed it, here’s a recent article from the New York Times extolling the virtues of an adventure in Costa Rica. http://travel.nytimes.com/2009/03/22/travel/22CostaRica.html?pagewanted=1&emc=eta1
Today’s 1:21 pm earthquake, reportedly 6.2 on the Richter scale and lasting about 20 seconds, has left people homeless, roads impassable, towns inaccessible, bridges unsafe, landslides, buckled roads, flooding (due to a cracked dam), downed electric lines, household furnishings destroyed, shattered windows, broken pipes and, sadly, 3 people dead (2 young sisters and a woman). Following the initial quake, strong aftershocks were felt on and off for several hours, forcing frightened people to remain outdoors, some even planning to spend the night in tents. Friends have reported having to crawl out of their houses, losing TV sets, cars being on 2 wheels, ocean-like waves on their swimming pool, having walls collapse in their homes, electricity going out, tiles falling off roofs, china crashing to the floor, etc. I was standing talking on the phone when it hit and was thrown onto a chair and the phone went out. Pots and pans banged in the kitchen, closet and cupboard doors swung open, pictures on a bookshelf fell over, the floor felt like it was rolling, boards in the wooden ceiling creaked and my cats ran frantically from room to room. In the aftermath, car alarms were sounding off, people were standing in the street and dogs were barking. Hopefully, we have seen the end of this. No doubt, tomorrow there will be more information available in the news. My heart goes out to those who have lost their homes, belongings or loved ones.
Beautiful flowers and the freshest produce available!
Expecting visitors from out of the country? Treat them to some local “flavor” by taking them to one of Costa Rica’s weekly farmers markets. These events provide an array of unusual fruits and vegetables, as well as a conglomeration of non-edible items. Where else can you find fresh produce, cut flowers, bootleg DVDs, orchids, fresh juice, hot pejibaye, herbs and cellphone cases for sale under one roof? In nearly every town, there is a farmers market. Heredia’s market stretches for blocks every Saturday, beginning before daybreak. The time I went to Alajuela’s market, there was live music and people were dancing. San Rafael de Heredia has their market on Sunday morning. (A friend bought rabbits there once!) My hometown of San Joaquín de Flores recently started having a market on Friday … under roof, which is especially nice during the rainy season. There’s plenty of parking, friendly vendors and granizados made with freshly cranked ice cream. The only problem with the market is that it’s easy to buy too much! For a real treat and some fresh, fresh produce at below grocery store prices, try your local farmers market. (Photo taken at the market in San Joaquín de Flores.)