San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Move Slated for San José Artisans Market

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Thecolorful downtown artisans market, which features crafts, clothing, bags and otheraccessories aimed at tourists, has occupied a one-block-long area along thewestside of the Plaza de la Democrácia in downtown San José for more than 15years.

LastFriday, however, the Culture Ministry and the Municipality of San José informedthe artisans that their market will be relocated to a building at the south endof the Plaza de las Garantías Sociales, between Ave. 2 and 4 and Calles 3 and5.

Therelocation decision followed a week of uncertainty for the artisans, who were toldon Sunday, Aug. 2, that they no longer could conduct business along Calle 13bis, the short street bordering the west end of the Plaza de la Democracia infront of the National Museum.

Thetemporary closure of the market was ordered by the Culture Ministry, whichousted the artisans after a recent presidential veto of Law 16.377, which wouldhave allowed the artisans continued use of the street.

Thelaw was initially vetoed in October 2008 and again in late July, which promptedthe eviction of the artisans last week.

Accordingto the Culture Ministry and the municipality, a peace museum will be constructedopposite the National Museum on the Plaza de la Democracia. The peace museum,which will be operated by the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress, willuse Calle 13 bis as a pedestrian walkway.

Italso will provide access to a parking lot opposite the plaza.

“After15 years, the president of the republic wants to make a peace museum,” said VictorHugo Torres, who has worked at the artisan market since its inception in 1994. “Wehave performed honest, hard work in the same place for all that time, and nowwe are told we have to leave because of a museum. It seems the president caresmore about his museum than he does about his people.”

Three Nights of Protest

OnMonday, Aug. 3, the artisans shuttered their kiosks and vacated the market, leavingsigns hanging on the two fenced central entrances. The signs – some in English,some in Spanish – urged the Legislative Assembly to override the veto,commented on the effect the closure would have on the artisan families orpointed out the irony that President Arias’s museum for peace would denyhundreds of people a job.

Manyof the artisans gathered in protest in front of Arias’ home in Rohrmoser. They sleptoutside for three nights, shouting and waving signs.

CarmenRodríguez Vilches, who has worked at the market for 15 years, said she wastired but “it was very beneficial because we went, we protested and we were listenedto.”

An Unexpected Solution

Ata news conference last Friday, Culture Minister María Elena Carballo unveiled anew plan to relocate the artisans to the nearby Plaza de las GarantíasSociales. She said that with financial assistance from the government of China,$1 million will be used to renovate the Frontón, an existing building, to createa state-of-the-art, three-story market for the artisans. She said it will have spacefor 90 sales stalls and include bathrooms, elevators and a public eating area.

“Thismakes the market a thousand times better,” said Carballo. “The Culture Ministryhas made a $1 million investment in the city of San José so that the people cancontinue to enjoy the public market.”

Accordingto the mayor of San José, Johnny Araya, the market relocation is a win-winsolution, providing the artisans a home while allowing the Culture Ministry todevelop the museum at the Plaza de la Democracia.

“Thecity council of San José realizes that the artisans have provided the city witha vital social, cultural, economic and intellectual institution for the nation,”Araya said. “With the creation of the market in the Frontón building, theartisans can continue their contribution, while the Cultural Ministry can beginthe renovation, remodeling and revitalization of the Plaza de la Democracia.”

Artisans Bittersweet

OnFriday afternoon, the artisans returned to Calle 13 bis to sell their crafts andcreations. The artisans market will remain there until the completion of the Frontónbuilding, or until they are forced to leave to make way for the construction ofthe museum and renovation of the plaza. Arias officially vetoed Law 16.377 onFriday.

Overthe weekend, some artisans drafted petitions to keep the market at Calle 13 bisand encouraged their customers to sign. Though the relocation seems inevitable,some artisans remain unhappy with the idea of leaving their long-standing home.

“Wedon’t want to move,” said María Auxiliadora, who said she has worked at themarket for 15 years with her husband.

“Wehave been here for 15 years and people from all over come here to shop. It isin the center of the city and a well-known location. There aren’t as manypeople in the new area. We want to stay right here.”

Somehave taken a more cynical view, claiming the promise to create a new market isa ploy.

“Firstof all, where are they going to get the $1 million?” asked Vladimir Rojas, a15-year veteran of the market. “I know they’re not going to go to China and say‘Hey, can you do me a favor and give us $1 million to invest in a market likethis?’ That’s a bunch of lies.”

Featuresof New Market

The design planfor the renovation of the Frontón building at the Plaza de las GarantíasSociales includes the following features:

• The bottomfloor will offer space for 60 artisans, as well as bathrooms for men and women,service spaces for the disabled, a small convenience store.

• The secondfloor will provide a space for 30 artisans, as well as bathrooms and a localcommercial development.

• The second andthird floors will have areas with large windows permitting visibility,ventilation and illumination.

• The thirdfloor will have an area for the sale of food and an eating area for public use.It will also have a display providing information for tourists and a space forexpositions.

• The structureof the current Frontón building will be reinforced with steel and internalcolumns.

• The building,which will have a sprinkler system, will be designed to permit the evacuationof smoke in case of fire.

• There will bean elevator and two staircases.

Source: CultureMinistry and Municipality of San José

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