San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
A Look Back

Learn Costa Rican history through a theatrical museum tour

Every Wednesday at 1 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. five figures from Costa Rica’s past lead tours through Alajuela’s Juan Santamaría Museum and Cultural Center. The free hour-long tours are a crash course in Tico history.

They share with us what life was like in 1856 when the Tico army defended the country and all of Central America against William Walker and his mercenary army.

Our first encounter is with army private Allen Briceño, who wears a white shirt and pants, a straw hat and homemade leather caites (sandals). He shows us all the things a soldier carried back then as they followed the call of President Juan Mora Porras (Wilson Ulate) to stop the invaders in Guanacaste.

He then leads us into the next hall, where President Juanito proudly displays the advances of the period, including gas street lights, higher education and a general increase in well-being due to coffee and commerce.

But he is interrupted by the villain William Walker (Octavio Sandí), who speaking in Americanized Spanish belittles the achievements of Costa Rica and all of Central America. He says the area would benefit from becoming part of the United States.

In the next hall, we meet a middle-aged Doña Nacha (Xinia Vargas), representing the women of Costa Rica who marched alongside the army to cook and load rifles and even shoot at the enemy, she explains. Leading us deeper into the museum, Nacha and our soldier/tour guide demonstrate using a model how the river and Lake Managua formed the major transportation between the Atlantic and Pacific. They show how the Tico army cleared the Via Transito from foreign control.

One final figure, Monseñor Anselmo Llorente y Lafuente (Rodolfo González), blessed the troops but had a falling out with President Mora and was forced to leave the country.

Just basic Spanish would be enough to allow you to enjoy this program. The play takes about an hour and each performance is free (not every show starts on time however). All actors are Alajuela’s own, and the museum is dedicated to the Campaign of 1856 that pitted itself against William Walker’s invasion. During that battle, native Alajuelan Juan Santamaría torched the invaders’ headquarters and helped rout the enemy. Shows will run through August.

Special night tours will be held at 7:30 p.m. on June 6 and 27 and July 18. Visitors are asked to bring flashlights.

The Juan Santamaría Museum and Cultural Center is located in the center square of Alajuela, in the old fort building. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. There is no entrance fee. Call for more information: 2441-4775, ext. 118.

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