Fun and free in Costa Rica: Images of beauty and horror at Museo de Arte Costarricense

January 12, 2017

Are you up for a shocking dichotomy at the museum? In one room, rounded sculptures of voluptuous women — each one carved from a single piece — pose in relaxed positions around the salon, while a few rooms away, ominous throbbing sounds accompany the sight of wooden animal parts hanging from meat hooks dripping into red “pans” of light. The two extraordinarily moving but contrasting images are on exhibit at the Museum of Costa Rican Art until Feb. 12.

Paintings, sculpture and drawings by Costa Rican artists.

Officials from the Prosecutor's Office and agents from the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) on Tuesday raided for a second time this month the offices of the National Emergency Commission (CNE) in San José, as part of investigations related to the construction of a road parallel to Nicaragua’s border.

Agents confiscated information relating to payments made for the construction of the 160-kilometer Route 1856 along Río San Juan, OIJ sources said.

Funds for the construction of the road came from the CNE, due to a direct emergency order issued by the President Laura Chinchilla.

On June 6, 30 judges and 150 OIJ officers raided 36 different locations as part of an investigation into irregularities involving contracting and alleged payments of bribes in the process of building the road.

Ilana Long/The Tico Times

And, as always, the Museo de Arte Costarricense is entirely free.

Currently there are three exhibits that have a limited shelf life at the museum. Better get there quick —You don’t want to miss ’em.

The Museo de Arte Costarricense is easy to find in Parque La Sabana.

Metaphorical seas turned red in San José on Thursday as government officials and conservation organizations got together to celebrate World Oceans Day.

The Costa Rican Fisheries Institute (Incopesca) started the day off with what appeared to be a preemptive press conference announcing the rejection of a complaint filed by the Marine Turtle Restoration Program (Pretoma) before the Secretary of Environmental Affairs (SAA) for the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

That complaint alleged Incopesca had not complied with regulations in CAFTA requiring shrimp trawlers to use Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) on their nets.

Luis Dobles, Incopesca board president, called the allegations “false” and “reckless.”

World Oceans Day 2

Luis Dobles, President of Incopesca, fields criticism from environmentalists at a forum hosted by the Our Oceans Front at the Legislative Assembly in San José on World Oceans Day. Environmental organizations accuse Incopesca of mismanaging marine resources in Costa Rica.

Gabe Dinsmoor

“After an analysis of almost seven or eight months, … [the SAA] believes the response of Costa Rica … is totally consistent to answer each and every argument presented by Pretoma, and as a result, officially notified the government of Costa Rica that it has suspended the evaluation process and ordered that it be archived,” Dobles said.

The Incopesca official added that the dismissal of the complaint means Costa Rica avoids potential fines of up to $15 million.

Two weeks ago, the United States announced the end of a three-year embargo on Costa Rican shrimp exports. The ban was levied against the country in 2009 for lack of enforcement of the use of TEDs on shrimp trawlers. U.S. inspectors visiting Costa Rica in October and November of last year concluded the country had improved means to sanction captains that did not use the devices, which help protect endangered sea turtles from drowning in fishing nets.

Dobles and his Incopesca entourage then headed across town to the Legislative Assembly where the environmental sharks were circling.

The Front for Our Seas is a collective of nongovernmental conservation organizations, including Pretoma, organized to “improve marine administration via a series of legal, scientific and political approaches.”

The front held their own public discussion in the assembly’s Ex-Presidents Salon, and Dobles ended up seated next to Pretoma President Randall Arauz, who filed the now-dismissed complaint before CAFTA.

For the next two and half hours, speakers from different environmental groups took swipes at Incopesca, accusing the institution in no uncertain terms of abetting shark finning, a destructive practice that is decimating shark populations globally. Groups also accused Incopesca of setting fisheries policy with little or no scientific studies or annual fisheries data to guide policy-making, of allowing foreign fleets to over-exploit tuna fisheries in Costa Rican waters, and of catering to the semi-industrial and industrial national fleets at the expense of small-scale fishermen in the development of management policy.

Last week, the Front for Our Seas filed a lawsuit before the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) asking for a ban on shrimp trawling, which is recognized to be an environmentally destructive form of fishing resulting in sea-floor damage, siltification of ocean waters and huge amounts of non-shrimp bycatch. The Sala IV agreed to hear the suit.

The attacks on the institute were like chum in the water, eliciting grumbles from fishermen attending the forum in support of Incopesca, and stirring environmentalists into a feeding frenzy of grievance-airing.

Some fishermen held signs questioning Pretoma or showing support of the institute, and they cheered Dobles when he finished speaking.

World Oceans Day 3

Randall Arauz, president of Pretoma, talks to reporters at a forum on marine resource management at the Legislative Assembly Thursday June 07, 2012.

Gabe Dinsmoor

Meanwhile, Costa Rican model and activist Leonora Jiménez queried Dobles on the makeup of the Incopesca board of directors. Five board members are representatives of the commercial fishing industry, a fact conservationists have long gnashed their teeth over.

Dobles did his best to bat away the criticisms, pointing out that the Incopesca board is composed according to the law that created the organization. He also pointed out that the institute operates on one of the smallest governmental budgets in the country, and that with only 18 inspectors to man the public dock in Puntarenas on the Pacific coast, the organization has a massive job on its hands.

Environmentalists seemed unimpressed with Dobles' responses, but several fisherman stood to voice their support for Incopesca and to accuse Arauz of lying.

But when the tide went out and the heated exchanges died down as attendees made their way towards tables lined with coffee and hors d'oeuvres, it was hard to tell who had been the sharks and who had been the bait.

“Pretoma and [conservation group] MarViva want to shut down and stop everything,” said a man who identified himself as shrimp trawler, but did not want to share his name. “Help us improve, help us make our fishing better, but don’t shut us down.”

Ilana Long/The Tico Times

Manuel Vargas’ exhibit, “Estrategias del Recuerdo,” or “Memory Strategies,” features larger-than-life women carved from trunks of wood. Vargas takes advantage of the grain of the wood, using the natural whorls to emphasize the curves of a woman.

This Vargas creation gazes wistfully at the information panel about her creator.

A concert long-anticipated by Costa Rica's large metal community finally will happen this summer. U.S. progressive metal group Dream Theater announced on its website that the band will play at the Palacio de los Deportes, in Heredia, north of the capital, on Sunday, Aug. 12. The arena will have a capacity of 4,200 for the show.

On Monday, ticket prices were announced by producer Flevent. The cheapest tickets cost ₡29.000, while the most expensive, VIP tickets, go for ₡49.000. A presale is expected to begin this Friday at Insomnia stores. After the presale, tickets also will be sold online at

The metal stalwarts, who arrived on the scene in 1985 and influenced the genre with albums like “Awake” and “Images and Words,“ also will play Guatemala and El Salvador for the first time.

Dream Theater has often been the subject of concert rumors in Costa Rica, but this is the first time those rumors appear to be confirmed.

Ilana Long/The Tico Times

“This art show is rooted in the most vivid memories of Vargas’ childhood and youth, particularly when he was living in his native Tilarán,” said public relations director Marissia Obando Razak.

These wistful, rounded sculptures have titles such as “Looking,” “On Hold” and “I Just Remember.” Smaller bronze sculptures pose on stands. In one titled “Come to Me,” a plump woman squats and holds her arms open. Even though she is made of bronze her embrace looks as welcoming and soft as pillows.

Manuel Zumbado’s extensive exhibit, “Transversal,” or “Crosswise,” could hardly be more different than the Vargas displays. Zumbado’s stark and bleak images are produced with intensity and grim violence. Some of the multimedia art includes technology, found objects and photography — blended with dark lines painted on a white background. In his other rooms, the images are dehumanizing and animalistic, violent and vicious.

Zumbado's visions of terror, violence and death are starkly moving.

The June 15 deadline for taxpayers to declare sales taxes is quickly approaching, and taxpayers should remember they can only file online.

Weeks ago, the Tax Administration announced the elimination of paper forms as well as the implementation of Internet technology for the declaration and payment of sales tax.

Payments may be also made online at the websites of banks where this service is available, or in person at bank offices, via a taxpayer identification number.

Tax Administration Director Carlos Vargas said the changes would result in government savings, and the digital declaration would reduce errors. “It also enables better control,” he said.

To avoid compatibility issues with the banking system, taxpayers must use EDDI-7 software provided by the Tax Administration, available only for Windows-based computers.

For more info, visit the Tax Administration’s website at:

Ilana Long/The Tico Times

His works blend the lines “between modernity and contemporary art, inheriting his language in tune with German expressionism,” Marissia said.

Zumbado combines technology and paint to design his multimedia creations.

The Environmental Secretariat of the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) dismissed a complaint filed by Costa Rican conservation group Marine Turtle Restoration Program (Pretoma), accusing the country of failing to protect sea turtles.

Luis Dobles, president of the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute, made the announcement on Thursday.

Pretoma’s complaint, filed last year, argued that Costa Rica was failing to “effectively enforce its environmental law, breaching the regulation requiring the use of Turtle Excluder Devices by the shrimp trawling fleet and failing to define the permitted areas for this practice.”

Dobles called the Pretoma claim false and said Costa Rica would avoid paying a $15 million fine. He also said it is the second time a Pretoma complaint has been rejected, adding that the Costa Rican government is not contemplating any counterclaim against the organization for damages.

Randall Arauz, president of Pretoma, told Channel 7 Telenoticias the group plans to file a new complaint on Friday.

Incopesca is still facing other complaints before the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court aimed at prohibiting trawling by fishing fleets in Costa Rican waters.

Ilana Long/The Tico Times

Black, red and gray are prominent colors in the images of dogs, with death set amidst grotesque scenery. As gruesome as it sounds, the effect is provocative and chilling.

The large National Awards Exhibit displays the works of some of Costa Rica’s award-winning artists from 1972 to 1993.

“The National Awards were established as a space for visibility and legitimation of artistic practices,” Marissia said.

Up close and personal at the National Awards Exhibit.

A recent report asserts that thousands of women in Costa Rica are waiting to receive a mammogram from the Social Security System (Caja). The problem is so prevalent in the country that patients can wait up to two years for an appointment, according to statistics released Monday by the National Union of Caja Employees (UNDECA).

Almost 53,800 women are waiting for a mammogram, UNDECA statistics showed. The mammogram is a tool used to detect and diagnose breast cancer, the most common type of cancer in women in Costa Rica.

The UNDECA statement said the reason for the logjam is that many hospitals have mammogram machines that are old or no longer work.

María Eugenia Villalta, a Caja medical manager, denied to various media that the waits were as severe as what UNDECA claimed, although she did not provide figures proving otherwise.

A press release from the Caja stated that the organization did 90,000 mammograms in 2011, and the number of mammograms performed increased 24 percent between 2008 and 2011.

Villalta said the situation is improving, and the Caja in recent years bought 14 new mammography machines and hired 26 new radiologists. She said the Caja plans to hire 22 more in the upcoming year. She also said the reason some women might not be receiving mammograms more regularly is because it’s only necessary to receive a checkup every two years.

The American Cancer Society recommends yearly mammograms beginning at age 40. However, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends the procedure every two years, starting at age 50 A recent study stated frequent mammograms lead to “over-diagnosis” of breast cancer, meaning that the breast cancer detected is so minimal it is unlikely to cause harm throughout a woman’s lifetime. Therefore, a patient receives treatment and tests they do not actually need.

Ilana Long/The Tico Times

Here you’ll find a variety of exceptional artwork, including abstract sculpture by Herbert Zamora, “Niñas” painted by Ana Griselda Hine, photography by Giorgio Timms and so much more. Realistic sculptures share the space with whimsical pen and ink drawings, surreal watercolors, bold photos and colorful, evocative oil paintings.

While you’re there, visit the permanent exhibits, too. In the Gold Room upstairs, the plaster and gold murals depict the entire history of Costa Rica on the four walls. Throughout the museum is a rotating installation of Costa Rica’s most treasured artists, and the permanent sculpture garden outside makes a lovely place to stroll or rest.

The airy sculpture garden behind the museum.

GUATEMALA CITY – Volcán de Fuego, located about 60 kilometers south of the capital, on Sunday spewed a column of ash up to a kilometer high, a government agency reported.

The National Volcanology Institute said in a release that the volcano, which rises 3,763 meters above sea level, erupted effusively, according to seismic recordings and images taken from a camera at the observatory at Panimache.

On Monday, officials from the Disaster Mitigation Network issued an orange alert, the second of a three-level alert system, due to the volcano’s activity, which presently consists of emissions of red-hot lava being hurled from the crater to a height of some 500 meters, the agency said.

Experts also said three rivers of lava were emerging from the crater and moving down the sides of the mountain. In addition, two emissions of ash rising from 800 to 1,000 meters (about 2,600 feet to 3,300 feet) were blowing southeast.

Ilana Long/The Tico Times

It’s fun, it’s inspiring, and it’s 100% free!

Museo de Arte Costarricense is located in Parque la Sabana Norte. Temporary exhibits until February 12. Open Tuesday-Sunday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Free. For more info:

In this column, adventurer, author, teacher and parent Ilana Long explores fun things to do in Costa Rica that cost absolutely nada. Contact her at


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