San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Granada Must Protect its Historical Heritage

The situation of total abandonment of Granada’s San Juan de Díos Hospital is a disgrace.

The looting of this building, which is an important piece of our urban and architectural history, a cataloged piece of our city’s heritage and the principal example of neoclassic architecture dated 1905, started during the last administration of Mayor Luis Jerónimo Chamorro (2000-2004).

Due to the indolence of everyone, today the building is in ruins after being systematically stripped and pillaged of all its materials: roofing, wooden beams, columns, tiles, doors, windows, toilets, sinks, and electrical wiring, among other things. The inside of the building looks like a bomb fell on it, with walls falling down, rubble all over the floor and old prescriptions and other medical papers strewn about the ruins.

This has gone on in front of the passive tolerance of the municipal security guards, who are supposed to be guarding the building, and without any local authority or citizen organization raising a voice in protest.

We have all allowed this to happen in front of our noses.

The current Mayor, Alvaro Chamorro, has insisted repeatedly that the Municipality of Granada should recover its buildings of historical significance, several of which are still owned by the central government.

But if the level of protection and care that the mayor will give these buildings is anything like what he has done to the old hospital, we can be assured that in no time at all we will lose even more buildings that are important, not only architecturally, but to the historical memory of this great city, built in 1524.

And the issue doesn’t end there. Other buildings have been cataloged as heritage sites and which serve as historical markers are totally abandoned, such as the old San Pablo Fort on the isletas of Lake Nicaragua.

The structure and doors of this old building are in total ruins and at risk of collapse.

This military construction from the 18th century formed part of the city’s line of defense and survived attacks by pirates. Now it is at risk of falling to abandonment.

The same is true for the old La Pólvora Fort, which recently received some maintenance on its roof and on the abutments of its thick walls, but whose lack of use and routine care will again lead to its gradual destruction.

The state of these three emblematic buildings should remind us of the responsibility we have to protect and preserve our heritage.

There are also new changes being introduced to the structure of homes in the HistoricalCenter and outlaying areas of Granada, which have been swept up in the frenzy of real estate buying and selling, mostly by foreigners.

At an earlier date in time, the original structure of buildings and homes were divided into smaller living areas for economic reasons.

But during the past five years, special new architectural and stylistic concepts, based on a Mexican colonial model, are being introduced – a reflection of the new owners’ concept of what the colonial model is.

So on this token, we are also destroying our own cultural style. We need to pay attention to this because in the mid or long run we are modifying our own historical codes.

Another issue that I want to point out is that the same Granadinos and foreigners who are buying property here are leaving our city without sidewalks. There are entire neighborhoods and streets where property owners have appropriated the sidewalk and closed it off by putting up a gate without taking pedestrians into account.

This also needs to be stopped immediately and regulated more vigorously by the municipal government.

Finally, attention must also be called to the proliferation of swimming pools and the growth of building heights in Granada.

Property owners are now building second and third floors on their homes, either because they want an unobstructed view of Mombacho Volcano, Lake Nicaragua and the islands, or because they want to take maximum advantage of real estate space, which has become increasingly expensive in recent years.

In some cases, however, people have built second floors which not only violate the city’s building codes, but which are in terrible esthetic proportion to the rest of the house.

In respect to construction in protected areas, there are cases where property owners have built homes without proper permits and in violation of the regulations and norms of the Historic Center of Granada.

This too must be considered an attack on the conservation of our heritage, which has the potential to be a principal source of generating wealth and development if we pay attention to what we have and conserve and protect it.


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