San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

A Christmas tree in December turns into an eyesore in February

Souvenir vendor Francisco Salas called the creation a “complete mess.”

Ice cream seller Pedro Reyes saw it as a “nuisance.”

A security guard at the National Museum said he thought the tree looked pretty and festive when the metal behemoth first appeared. Now it looked dead.

In December, the National Power and Light Company (CNFL) received permission from the San José Municipality to construct an enormous metallic Christmas tree in the center of Plaza de la Democracia, in the capital’s center. Telecom enterprise Claro sponsored the glowing 10-meter tree. The holiday season came and went, and the Claro Christmas tree stayed. 

Raquel Caravaca, the municipality’s comptroller of services, said that last year the CNFL reached an agreement with the city to take charge of the lighting project. Construction company CAVICA was contracted to build the tree. 

On Wednesday, after being contacted by The Tico Times, Caravaca said the municipality Public Works Department sent a written order to CAVICA demanding the organization remove the structure. 

Caravaca added in an email that she has tried to reach a representative from CAVICA, but nobody has answered her. The Tico Times also placed multiple calls to the construction company to no avail.  

Meanwhile, the befuddling eyesore rests mightily and uselessly in a plaza space. The once-popular spot for outdoor concerts and other activities now serves as an odd relic to Costa Ricans and tourists alike.

The tree showed brightly through Christmas. Then, the new year arrived. The lights switched off, and it seemed Santa had deposited an immense metal carcass in the middle of San José. 

Salomón Rivera resides inside that hollow space on most days. He said he was hired by CAVICA as the tree’s cuidador, or caretaker. Rivera organizes stray pieces of metal in the construction, and presumably keeps out vagrants and vermin. From time to time, he also explains to police officers why he’s spending his afternoons dwelling inside a fake Christmas tree in February. 

On Tuesday, Rivera said that CAVICA told him workers would arrive to begin taking apart the Christmas tree. Nobody showed up. 

“Christmas is over,” Rivera said. “But this tree could stay here for the next one.”

Laianer Arias contributed to this story.

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