San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

María José Gives Ticos Something to Cheer, Deride

María José Castillo took the country by storm this summer and fall, sailing to second place in Latin American Idol, the popular musical reality show.

Ticos shelled out an estimated $87 million worth of text messages – up to 900 per second – in the two days leading up to the Oct. 8 final alone to vote for the 17-year-old Castillo, who ultimately lost to Panamanian Margarita Henríquez.

President Oscar Arias decreed Castillo’s efforts to be of “cultural interest,” and she headlined this year’s Festival de Luz parade.

But adulation for the starlet was not universal. She garnered third place, after Arias and Public Security Minister Janina del Vecchio, in the Anti-Figures of the Year poll on the popular Tico blog,, which called the María José fuss “the most useless collective mobilization ever seen in Costa Rica.”


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