The newly expanded JoséFigueresFerrerCulturalCenter is open for cultural business again, offering programs, exhibits, and dance, music and painting classes in the coffee town of San Ramón, northwest of San José.
The center, across from the north side of the church in the center of town, stands on the same spot as the house where Costa Rica’s beloved 24th president and founder of the second republic was born in 1906.
Don Pepe, as Figueres was affectionately called, is best known for abolishing the army, but his sense of justice and equality led to a brief civil war in 1948, followed by a new economic and social order that included giving women the right to vote.
But Figueres believed arts and culture were just as important to a nation as economic development, as evidenced in his often-quoted line, “Why tractors without violins?” He saw music, art and poetry as an integral part of a country’s progress.
When the old Figueres house went on the market in 1988, a private party made arrangements for purchase. In 1994, the cultural and historical center opened in a reconstructed building, dedicated to don Pepe in the place where his ideas were fostered.
Because the center could not expand its ground floor, it added upward, creating a sala big enough to accommodate a crowd for art shows and receptions, as well as special rooms for ballet and modern dance lessons and additional classrooms for arts classes and workshops. The busy center hosts music recitals, concerts, talks and ceremonies on a weekly basis and displays new art exhibits every month. Though the center focuses on talent from San Ramón, artists from all over the country are featured. Special shows are presented for Christmas and other holidays. The expansion was inaugurated April 15 with an afternoon party featuring special guest speaker María Elena Carballo, culture minister, and a musical program of Chopin selections by 16-year-old national award-winning pianist Luis Diego Suárez. A display of Bribrí indigenous art in natural materials by artist Jénifer Pérez formed the gallery’s first show. The inauguration, like all events at the center, was open to the public free.
Figueres’ parents came to the country from Spain and settled in the San Ramón house just in time for his birth. Don Pepe grew up in a liberal European atmosphere in a town already known for being home to many of the nation’s poets. San Ramón had no secondary schools at the time, so the young Figueres had to leave home for an education. But he always remembered San Ramón, where he got his start.
After living in exile in Mexico during the 1940s, Figueres returned to Costa Rica to lead a movement against totalitarian governments and became the founding father of the second republic. He was elected president for two terms, in 1953 and in 1970. He died in 1990.
The center, which includes a museum detailing his role in Costa Rica’s history, was closed for four months during the reconstruction. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Events are listed in The Tico Times’ Calendar section. For previews and information, see www.centrojosefigueres.org, or call 2447-2178.