San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Around San Juan:

The residence placard for my vehicle that allowed me to drive into San Juan del Sur during Semana Santa read “PLAN VERANO 2009,” or Summer Plan 2009.

I volunteered to provide and bring meals to some of the service workers – civil defense and bomberos (fire fighters) – and as the weekend progressed, I was pleased by how good the plan was unfolding.

There were over 150 additional officers – traffic cops, tourist police and special forces – and their presence was evident all over town. The beach was supervised by San Juan’s own volunteer fire department, members of the Volunteer Firefighters Association of Nicaragua (ACCBVN).

Major Alfonso García coordinates the current fire station located behind the new mayor’s office. The fire department is available 24 -7 for emergencies in the San Juan area. There number is 568- 3015.

During Semana Santa they also offered life guard duty and 24-hour first-aid from the life guard stand on the beach. They were assisted by ACCBVN firefighters from other stations, who provided ambulance service and mobile support.

Civil defense was present here and at Marsella beach, as well as on the shores of Lake Nicaragua at La Virgin. They assisted the mayor’s office by operating a radio command post and coordinating communication between the various support groups.

The coordination became very evident when lost children were reunited with their families. One child was found by the Navy out in the bay, and turned over to the firefighters.

In another case the firefighters, civil defense and alcaldia worked together to reunite a lost child with the group responsible for him.

Though there were 67 deaths reported in Nicaragua during holy week, no fatalities were reported in the entire municipality of San Juan del Sur. Several rescues occurred and many accident victims were transported for medical attention or treated on site. The police reported an increase in visitors over last year with a significant decrease in crime and road accidents.

Complicating matters was the arrival on Friday of the Star Princess Cruise ship and its 1,800 passengers! There was the usual influx of pizza trucks and fried chicken stands and many street vendors. However many store and restaurant owners report a lot of visitors but much fewer sales than in previous years.

Three parking areas set up outside of town by the alcaldia handled most of the bus traffic while trash collecting continued nonstop through out the weekend. There were three large discos from Managua – Zeta, Chaman and Blu – and also several smaller events related to alcohol sales.

On Holy Thursday and Good Friday, the Via Cruz (Way of the Cross) processions from the Catholic Church were officiated by Padre Arturo Zambrano and were well attended. They seemed in strange juxtaposition to the party goers.

Mariachi bands played until the procession reached their section of the street and then blended away until the procession passed. Parked cars lined the streets and their alarms were triggered by the crowds.

On Good Friday the procession included 12 litter bearers carrying a lighted glasswindowed coffin with a statue inside representing the body of Jesus and followed by a somber crowd of mostly Sanjuaneños and expatriates who live here.

The most astounding difference this holiday was the absence of the usual explosions! No bombas (fire crackers) and no pipe bombs went off during the long weekend.

Imagine a holiday in San Juan without bombas! Que Milagro!

–Jane Mirandette


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