San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Photos Show ‘Other Face of La Carpio’

Girls from the shantytown of La Carpio display scenes of their neighborhood on the walls of a San José art gallery. A quick tour of the room shows photos of shoe repairmen, market vendors, kids playing, families and self-portraits of the eight girls involved in the project.

“There are positive and negative parts,” says Linsey Fallas, 13. “This little group was started to transmit a message about the positive side. It is not always negative, which is the only thing the media talk about.”

La otra cara de La Carpio” (The Other Face of La Carpio) is a photo exhibit presenting the work of girls, age 12 to 15, who live in the shantytown in western San José.

The exhibit is on display at Galería Yar Burba in eastern San Jose’s Barrio Escalante until July 7.

With these photos, the girls hope to tell the whole story of La Carpio, an area best known for its struggles with poverty, violence and pollution. Photos of garbage piled high and graffitied walls are included in the exhibit to not mislead observers, but, while La Carpio is not perfect, many who live there are working to move it forward, says Yoselin Vargas, 15.

“There are many stores, many business,” Vargas says. “Nobody sees this side of La Carpio.”

Vargas took a photo of four kids holding La Voz de La Carpio, a community newspaper that Vargas’ mom helps run. Another image shows a collection of plush toys sold in La Carpio. Vargas wanted to highlight the neighborhood’s effort to improve the area, she says.

Project coordinator Ania Janerud, from Sweden, worked with the kids every Saturday for eight months. A Swedish aid agency funded the cameras. The point of the program was not to turn the students into expert photographers, Janerud says; in an impoverished corner of San José, where machismo culture is rampant, the project intended to build self-esteem in the girls.

“The camera has just been a tool for them to get to know themselves and get to know their community,” Janerud says.

The SwedishCooperativeCenter – Janerud works for the center but volunteered her own time for the program – worked with CODECA, La Carpio’s community organization, to select the students.

Through the lens of a camera, the photos demonstrate what is most significant to the girls. Fallas has no problem picking out her favorite photo. She walks over to one of her mother holding her younger brother.

“Why is it important to me?” Fallas asks. “I love my mom. You want to take photos of something that matters.”


‘La otra cara de La Carpio’

What: A photo exhibit showing the impoverished shantytown of La Carpio through the eyes of eight girls, age 12 to 15.

Where: Galería Yar Burba (2283-5762), Barrio Escalante, 300 m north and 25 m west of the Costa Rican-North American Cultural Center, free admission.

When: Runs through July 7 at Galería Yar Burba, open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. From July 12 to Aug. 11, the exhibit will be on display at Café Malpaís in the eastern suburb of San Pedro. From Oct. 4 to 30, it will be on display at Casa del Artista in Guadalupe, northeast of San José.




Contact Matt Levin at

Comments are closed.