Archivo para la Categoría ‘English Section’

U.S. citizen services workshop January 20

Publicado por eloccidente En enero - 31 - 2012

U.S. citizen services workshop January 20

A community outreach workshop to be conducted by U.S. Embassy staff for U.S. citizens will focus on services such as voter registration, passport renewal and notary services. Recent changes to the Embassy appointment system, new passport usage and other updates will be covered as will a new American citizen services newsletter. There will be some time for questions relating to these services. Scheduled for Friday, Jan. 20 at the José Figueres Cultural Center from 10 – 11 a.m., the free, English event is organized by Community Action Alliance, a non-partisan, civic group in San Ramón.

San Ramón celebrates city founding

January 19 marks the annual celebration of San Ramón’s incorporation as a city. Local authorities are planning a variety of cultural and recreational activities for this year’s 168th anniversary including a handicraft and painting exhibition, an organic market, and the sale of locally made textiles.

It was on a Friday in 1844, that the head of state, José María Alfaro Zamora, signed a decree authorizing the creation of San Ramón. For two years prior to this date, residents had been pressuring congress to recognize their property rights in the region.

San Ramón was referred to in those days as the Valley of Palms, due to an abundance of the tree.

The 40 families in the region produced tobacco for the state-run tobacco company in addition to basic grains and sugar cane that served as a means of subsistence for their families.

These pioneers, the Alvarado Arrieta, Alvarado Rodríguez, Vargas Alfaro, Villalobos and Solórzano families, among others, hailed from Alajuela, Heredia and San Antonio de Belén.

This anniversary is an opportunity to reflect upon the hardships faced by the courageous families who came in search of better opportunities for their families and who form the foundation of our present-day city.

Farmers seek property tax reform

Farmers feel they have been hurt by the way property taxes are calculated, and are proposing a change to the municipal law. This proposed reform will be considered along with a counter proposal drafted by the country’s 81 municipal governments.
The proposed reform, developed by growers throughout the country, seeks to minimize the impact on farmers, while not affecting municipal revenue collection. The text will be presented Jan. 12 at the IFAM (Institute for Municipal Support) main office.

Over the years, the controversial property tax has increasingly upset growers, many of whom have had to request moratoriums on payments from the local government claiming they cannot afford the taxes.

Grecia’s farms monitored for bovine rabies

The National Animal Health Service (SENASA) continues to monitor cattle farms in the Río Cuarto de Grecia region to detect potential cases of paralytic bovine rabies.

This past September, the animal control officials set up quarantine measures as a farm where five cows died of the disease. The officials informed that vampire bats are the primary culprits of transmitting the disease to cattle. Recently, four other bovine rabies cases were detected at a farm in Caño Negro, Alajuela.

Rabies is a virus that attacks the central nervous system of warm-blooded animals, including humans. It usually provokes faulty coordination, difficulty in walking, excessive salivation, and eventually paralysis that extends into the neck and causes death.

Grecia’s new flag to express local identity

Grecia’s Municipality together with the town council has created a new flag that expresses the canton’s identity, and symbolizes its history and roots. For many years, the flag has had the same colors as a local soccer team, and a change was definitely in order.

Local historian, Carlos Alberto Maroto Barquero, was selected to develop the new flag’s design based on the results of his research on local identity.
Comprised of blue, white and green horizontal bands, the white band forms a “Y” shape to represent the raised arms of a person who feels triumph, liberty, hope, faith and hard work. The blue and green triangular sections symbolize the three main values of the region’s settlers: liberty, progress and solidarity. Along the white band are eight 5-pointed, golden stars to represent the canton’s eight districts.

Two new technical high schools to open in February

The towns of Zamora de San Ramón and El Rosario de Naranjo will each receive 130 high school students in February.
The new technical high schools designated by the regional public education office in San Ramón will strive to educate and train students in professions and trades that local businesses have recommended are needed to strengthen the local economy.

The new San Ramón high school should help ease crowding at the Julio Acosta García Institute, whose 2,000 students make running this school a challenge.

Arts school to inaugurate new facility

By the end of this school year, the new building Magallanes Visual Arts High School students and teachers have been awaiting for the past two years will be ready.

The handicap accessible facility cost over half a million dollars to build, and houses 20 classrooms, four restroom areas and administrative offices.
This is the only visual arts high school in the western region, and students graduate with a degree in visual arts and design. The first class to graduate will be in 2015.

San Ramón accepts carbon neutral challenge

Diverse players have assumed the challenge and commitment of advancing San Ramón’s carbon neutrality pledge. The project will contribute to the country’s 2021 goal of having an economy based on low carbon outputs and methods of compensating for greenhouse gas emissions.

The local initiative is spearheaded by the San Ramón Carbon Neutral Foundation that was formed out of discussions in the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Tourism in this dynamic region. The process began in 2010, and has been growing to incorporate representatives of the community’s private and public sectors.

Palmares uses Mer-link for online contracting

The Palmares Municipality is one of the first of six local governments in the country to use a new online service for its public bidding and contracting procedures.

As part of an effort to modernize local governments in Costa Rica, the Efficient and Transparent Municipal program (MuNet) created Mer-link with support from the Organization for American States (OAS) and the Technical Secretary for Digital Government.
Vendors wishing to sell their products or services to municipalities must register their business in the Mer-link system, whether it be to sell chairs, trash bags, computers, printer cartridges, or offer services like printing.
Among the benefits of utilizing the Mer-link system are greater administrative transparency, an increased number and quality of bids, a streamlined vendor registration process, and a more agile contracting process.

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Publicado por eloccidente En diciembre - 15 - 2011

Sergio a. Molina, Ph.D.

Resident Lecturer in Environmental Economics and Policy

Center for Sustainable Development Studies

The School for Field Studies (a.k.a. Universidad de la Presa)

Lea el resto del Artículo »

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Naranjo water rates have risen

Publicado por eloccidente En diciembre - 15 - 2011

Naranjo water rates have risen

  • The city plans to invest $1.5 million to revamp the drinking water distribution network over the next five years.

Despite grumbling from some sectors, the Naranjo municipality will raise water rates in order to finance an upgrade of the water distribution network.

Claudio Rodríguez, vice mayor, said that the rates have remained flat for the past five years while maintenance costs have increased.

Currently, residential rates are ¢2,200 per 15 cubic meters per month – the equivalent of 75 barrels of water.

The hike took effect in November. A technical study by the Institute for Municipal Support and Assistance (IFAM) recommended a maximum basic rate of ¢3,200.

Seven years ago the Ministry of Health and the Water and Sewerage Department had to intervene in the Naranjo aqueduct due to a diarrhea outbreak. The health crisis was reportedly due to inadequate water treatment.

One in 16 Palmares residents has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease

Results of a study by Dr. Alejandro Leal Esquivel found that 6 percent of Palmares residents have the hereditary Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease. Named after the three doctors who identified the illness, in the United States CMT affects one in 3,300 people, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

The disease currently has no cure. Esquivel, the UCR researcher who discovered the gene responsible for the disease, has plans to do experimental stem cell therapy on 50 patients in Panama. Current Costa Rican legislation prohibits such clinical trials.

The neurological illness affects feet and hands and can affect equilibrium. Some with the disease feel tingling and numbness in their extremities, and over time can develop atrophied muscles in those regions which can affect mobility and use of the hands. In some cases hearing can be affected by CMT. Others have very mild symptoms.

One concern is that misdiagnosis of CMT can lead to prescription medications that can accelerate the disease’s progress, said Iliana Sancho of the Central American Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy.

Palmares has a higher than normal incidence due to the town’s close-knit nature in which many marry within the local community. Inevitably, many marriages are among relations. Due to its hereditary nature, women and men, rich and poor are affected equally.

In Zarcero, Naranjo and Palmares researchers have found similar situations of higher than usual hereditary disease rates due to the close family relations and intermarriage that was historically customary due to the town’s small populations.

Esquivel’s clinical work gives hope that stem cell therapy may prove an effective solution to CMT disease. The 50 Costa Rican patients who have agreed to participate in this experimental treatment need assistance to travel to Panama City for the procedure. The Central American Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy seeks donations for this endeavor.

Palmares gives 2011 Community Service Award

Walter Solano Alfaro, with 40 years of community service in Palmares, particularly in the Santa Fe neighborhood, was granted the 2011 Community Service Award by the city council in a solemn ceremony that described his works. An exhibit of his photos will be on permanent display on the second floor of the town hall.

Sarchí seeks economic revival

A decrease in furniture sales, declining tourism and losses in agriculture have hit Sarchí particularly hard given that these three sectors form the basis of the local economy in this Alajuela canton.

Alberto Guerro, a local furniture maker, has seen a substantial decrease in demand for his products over the past four years.

There is a negative spiral of consequences to the declining economic growth in the area: families who earn less spend less, thus affecting all local businesses, and the gap between rich and poor is accentuated.

Guerrero was concerned that the new taxes on consumer goods in the proposed Fiscal Plan would hit rich and poor equally, thus driving inequality even further. He was particularly aware that if raw materials for his business increase, he would need to raise his prices.

San Ramón’s carbon neutral quest gets support

* Taking stock of existing forests and tree plantations is needed to complete the carbon production and absorption equation, and thus be able to qualify as carbon neutral.

El Occidente Newstaff Lea el resto del Artículo »

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Community group broadens scope, organizes fundraiser

Publicado por eloccidente En octubre - 14 - 2011

Community group broadens scope, organizes fundraiser

Saturday, Nov. 12, 10 am- 2pm, the Community Action Alliance will hold its first annual book sale at the Museo Regional de San Ramón to benefit the local Red Cross chapter and the Dog Land animal rescue center (

Come one, come all! The sale will include over 2,000 used books, CDs, DVDs, magazines and other educational materials, both in English and Spanish. Jewelry and other handicrafts will also be for sale. Please help us spread the word. For more information please visit:

Paperback books will be 1,000 colones; hardback books will be 2,000 colones. Students receive a special discount of buy four and get one free.

Community Action Alliance is teaming with Gringo Central to underwrite all expenses for the event so that 100 percent of the proceeds will reach the Red Cross and Dog Land.

Donations of materials in good condition are welcome and can be dropped off at the Red Cross, Coopenae or El Museo Regional.

Community Action Alliance is made up of foreign and Costa Rican residents of San Ramón. The voluntary group aims to foster and assist the integration of foreigners into the local community. For the past two years, the alliance has worked closely with the Chamber of Commerce, the municipality, Propaz, the police, the Red Cross, and other local government, business and community groups. Through committees working on education, citizen security, economic development, and the environment, the group undertakes initiatives in cooperation with established local organizations.

Over the past year, the alliance sought the support of the U.S. Embassy to organize two workshops in conjunction with Propaz featuring community-policing specialist Arturo Venegas. We support the San Ramon Carbon Neutral initiative and have applied for a grant from the U.S. Embassy for the purchase of surveillance equipment, vehicles and other resources to help local institutions improve citizen security. Other initiatives include tutoring English in local ITCR and INA schools, sourcing music instruments for local schools and, most recently, raising funds for local groups.

The alliance is built around the following core values: a focus on action and results; the importance of service and volunteerism; putting aside differences, building consensus and working toward the collective good of the community; and respect for and the strength of diversity.

It is out of respect for the history and culture of San Ramón that we dedicate our efforts to help create the next generation of poets and presidents. Please join us!

For questions or suggestions regarding the book sale please contact:

Louisa Wittman, 8.997.9903, (English)

José Esquivel, 8.702.8479,, (Spanish)

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Naranjo coffee growers celebrate National Coffee Day

Publicado por eloccidente En octubre - 13 - 2011

Naranjo coffee growers celebrate National Coffee Day


El Occidente Staff


A group of coffee producers from Lourdes de Naranjo together with workers from the region’s small and large coffee processing plants gathered Sept. 9 for National Coffee Day to exchange experiences and successful practices.

Today, a sack of quality beans brings in $350. Producers and cooperatives in the region are working to encourage former growers to return to work their lands to reach former production quotas with a quality crop, said Manuel Barrantes, a local coffee grower.


This first time activity was held at a time when international coffee bean prices augur well for the sector. In previous years coffee prices have declined due to worldwide overproduction of cheap, lower quality coffee.

Select markets and consumers throughout the world recognize the high quality of Naranjo’s coffee. Even growers are using the new language to describe the varied qualities of coffee, including boutique brands.


Currently, roughly 200 thousand fanegas of coffee beans are collected each year in Naranjo. During the 1990s this figure was double that, which gives cooperatives a lofty goal to aim for in bringing growers back into the fold.



Research reveals ancient human settlements in San Ramon


El Occidente Staff


A University of Costa Rica archeologist, Mauricio Murillo Herrera, together with his students, announced that the original inhabitants of the areas of El Llamarón and Santiago in San Ramón lived in social groupings between 2,000 and 3,000 B.C.


Herrera concluded that these people had an autonomous social and political organization, which differs from findings of previous archeologists who lumped San Ramón’s early civilizations into the larger Mesoamerican and South American cultures and structures.


The study describes the lifestyle and characteristics of this population. At this point in pre-Columbian history, the daytime temperatures averaged 43 Fahrenheit. This was a hunter-gatherer group organized into small clusters.

Up until now, practically nothing was known about the region’s original inhabitants. An analysis of ceramic fragments together with other evidence was enough to uncover the rich cultural heritage of our ancestors and learn that they lived independently of other rulers at the time.


Technology to improve student performance used in Palmares


A computer lab was recently opened at the Palmares Night School to increase students’ knowledge through access to the Internet. Local government offices donated the equipment to enable the center to open.


The goal of the lab is for youth to understand how to use technology and take advantage of resources in cyberspace, said Victoria Benavides, Palmares City Council member.


Six western municipalities have simpler building permit process


Aiming to halve the number of steps needed to secure a building permit, and thus be more competitive, municipal governments in the western cities of Alajuela, San Ramón, Grecia, Palmares, San Carlos and Valverde Vega have streamlined their offices.

To create an online application process, the municipalities are receiving technical support through a memorandum of agreement with the Association of Engineers and Architects (CFIA) and the Institute for Municipal Development (IFAM).

Builders and architects working in these areas will now have at their fingertips all the information needed to obtain permits in a digital format. Users of the new site will be able to send the same forms to both public institutions as well as local municipal offices.

Dinosaur fossils uncovered in Palmares


El Occidente Staff


Geological studies in the Palmares districts of Buenos Aires and Esquipulas are uncovering fossils of mastodons, glyptodonts and giant sloths. The research is being conducted by Ana Lucía Valerio from the Natural History Department of the National Museum and by Dr. César Laurito, a paleontologist from the National Training Institute (INA).

The research began after a young resident by the last name of Molina discovered a stone with fossil imprints in 2005 in that area.


These species inhabited the areas of Palmares and San Ramón in roughly 10,000 B.C.

San Ramón – San Carlos highway project delayed


The highway stretching from Sifón to Florencia is nearly halfway completed, but the second half has yet to begin, according to residents, who have waited 30 years for the road to open.


Legislator Mireya Zamora has joined the chorus of those who accuse the Public Works Ministry (MOPT) of standing in the way of the highway’s completion, stating, “As long as the official order to start building is not given, the highway works will be paralyzed, as this document is an indispensable requirement for the approved funds, which were so difficult to obtain, to be released.”


Employment up in Grecia

An estimated 500 new jobs were created after an expansion of the Panduit electronics components plant on the outskirts of Grecia, bringing their total staff to 1350.


According to Panduit sources, the favorable business climate encouraged the company to add an additional 14.000 m2 of space to the facility. According to company documents, the factory complies with environmental standards in their production process.


Illustrated book on the Steffen family


A 700-page, richly illustrated book replete with historical photographs is a unique and important source of data on the descendants in the main branches of the San Ramón Steffen family.


The work is dedicated to María Guillermina Steffen Grigat (Marie Wilhelmine Steffen Grigat), the family matriarch and rock of this German immigrant family that arrived in Costa Rica in the mid-19th century.

Alban Cambronero Acosta, a genealogy fanatic, with the aid of Ligia Cambronero García, both descendants of Steffan Grigat, worked for over 20 years to compile data about their ancestors.

The book will be unveiled Saturday, Sept. 24 at 3 pm at the San Ramón Regional Museum (the former Municipal Hall) located across from the northern perimeter of the Alberto M. Brenes Park.


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Western municipalities race to bid for international road money

Publicado por eloccidente En septiembre - 12 - 2011

Western municipalities race to bid for international road money

* The technical review board will reject projects with a slant towards electoral politics.

* Of the 800 projects presented only 5 percent comply with requisites.

Funds from a $60 million loan from the International Development Bank (IDB) to improve gravel roads and bring progress to outlying communities are available to qualifying Municipalities in the western region.

Recently, when news of the funds came out of the blue, local governments scrambled to put together project proposals. Of the nearly 800 preliminary proposals presented, only 5 percent were deemed viable and meet all the technical requirements, according to a report on road management by the National Roadways Council (CONAVI).

Of a total of $200 million in loans granted by the IDB, the first phase involves distributing $60 million. Once half of these initial funds are utilized, the remaining $140 million will be disbursed, according to the signed agreement with the Costa Rican government.

Projects need to demonstrate a positive impact on the social and economic development in a given district to receive road improvement funding. In addition, the municipal government must provide 25 percent of each work undertaken and guarantee adherence to quality standards.

Projects by politicians who view the funding as a potential opportunity to strengthen and gain local political support were rejected by a CONAVI commission; the resources must be put to use to address the pressing needs of poorer communities, and attempts are being made to avoid pork barrel projects.

UCR providing quality dental care in Grecia

Improving oral health among low-income populations is one of the stated goals of the University of Costa Rica in their social outreach to the community of Grecia.

To achieve this end, a $200-million dental clinic was built in the Recinto de Grecia, showing the clear intent of the university to improve their services in the city.

Eval Araya, director of Recinto Grecia, explained that the project encompasses academic, teaching, student, administrative and infrastructure projects as well as strategic alliances with other sectors of the community in order to work efficiently to achieve both short and medium-term goals.

Palmares, Alajuela and Grecia see bus fares rise

The recent 3.94 percent rise in public transportation rates announced by the Public Services Regulation Authority (ARESEP) will affect bus-riding residents in the western towns of Palmares, Alajuela and Grecia.

The rise is based on an analysis of salaries, fuel prices, repair costs and maintenance, and also takes into account the most recent fare changes of each bus company. The last national price setting for bus fares took place in February 2010.

Naranjo coffee growers aim for better harvests

Naranjo coffee growers are employing new techniques to achieve better quality beans and higher yields.

The average per hectare yield in Naranjo is currently 25 fanegas. Though one farm in the area, Cafetalera Herbazú in Lourdes de Naranjo, obtains 60-fanega yields by utilizing optimal farming techniques in addition to receiving technical support.

Pest and disease control techniques, especially those that mitigate the ojo de gallo fungus, are key to increasing production and, said Sebastián Fournier, a Bayer representative, are the secret to achieving a better quality bean.

Recently a group of 80 independent coffee growers and cooperative representatives from the western region received training at the model farm located on Herbazú’s premises. They were able to see first-hand the scientific practices for correct coffee plant management, and pest and disease prevention.

The Costa Rican Coffee Institute (ICAFE) estimates the country’s 56,000 active coffee growers last year harvested 90,000 hectares for a total collection of 2,042,957 fanegas of coffee beans (equivalent to 3,217,568 level bushels).

An increase in the presence of the ojo de gallo fungus led to an estimated loss of 75,000 fanegas (118,122 level bushels) last year and was more damaging to small producers, some of whom have only a few hectares under coffee production. The monetary loss caused by the fungus is estimated at $45 million. This has spurred growers to improve their farming techniques in order to stay competitive.

Growing sense of impunity and insecurity in San Ramón

* Residents petition for the opening of a branch of the Flagrant Criminal Court

Several recent crimes in broad daylight in San Ramón including the robbery of Chaves Jewelers and Giovanni’s market, and the killing of Hugo the shop-owner are not merely a random occurrence. They are the result of a deteriorating society that lacks positive economic, social and political opportunities and that is experiencing a loss of spiritual values.

Residents are strengthening neighborhood watch committees in each part of the city. Additionally, citizens are working to collect the 9,000 signatures needed to petition the court system to evaluate the feasibility of establishing nighttime hours for an office of the Flagrant Criminal Court. This will allow for more rapid filing of the attacks and robberies that are increasingly common in the region.

Costa Rican sculptors sculpted in Germany

Costa Rican sculptors Ángel Lara Vargas, Leda Astorga, Herbert Zamora, Aquiles Jiménez and Domingo Ramos were invited to create and exhibit works by the Pura Vida Association. The group was created 10 years ago to promote exchange between the cities of Alajuela, Costa Rica and Lahr in southwestern Germany.

The outdoor summer-time event also included works by these well-known Costa Rican sculptors: José Sancho, Esteban Coto, Crisanto Badilla, Ángel Lara, Manuel Vargas and Edgar Zúñiga. Simultaneous exhibits of Eugenio Murillo and Rodolfo Rocha’s paintings were also open to the public.

Palmares celebrated its 123rd anniversary

The Palmares Municipality commemorated its 123rd cantonal anniversary with a simple and solemn ceremony.

The event took place in the public library and involved an historical overview of the city, which was the 7th city incorporated into the province of Alajuela on July 30, 1888.

Cooperation sought for dengue prevention in Grecia

With the aim of eliminating breeding sites of the mosquito that spreads dengue, the Ministry of Health together with the Grecia municipality organized a trash collection campaign to haul away materials where the aedes aegypti mosquito likes to breed (discarded tires, plastic containers and other similar items).

The campaign is ongoing for the rest of this year in all the downtown neighborhoods. On specific dates later this year, trash collection efforts will concentrate in the other districts of the Grecia region.

Public high school boards guaranteed funding

The administrative boards of public high schools as well as community educational boards will receive a 10 percent share of municipal property tax income.

The measure, Bill 17087, which passed the second debate in the Legislative Assembly, is designed to guarantee full funding of these important bodies.

This is one way in which authorities are attempting to address dwindling resources for public primary and secondary education.

Los Angeles school sees facility improvements

The 800 students of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles high school together with parents and education officials inaugurated the recent expansion and remodeling of the school. Located in the Angeles district of San Ramón, the high school is designed to meet the needs of special education students and is the only high school in Costa Rica with a pre-vocational program.







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Waste management deal signed with Palmares local gov’t

Publicado por eloccidente En junio - 24 - 2011

Waste management deal signed with Palmares local gov’t


San Ramón’s municipal government signed an agreement with their counterparts in Palmares to allow their solid waste to be processed in Pamlares. The contract covers waste pick-up, transfer and disposal in the Bolivar landfill.


Roughly 60 tons of trash will be managed daily for a cost of a million and a half colones ($3,000) per day. This amount was formerly paid to the WPP Company to bring San Ramón’s trash to Alajuela. The municipality hopes this new agreement will provide a more efficient trash collection service.


Regional Landfill


The Bolivar landfill currently receives trash from Naranjo, Sarchí, Palmares and San Ramón, and is striving to generate profit in order to remain sustainable.


Mercedes Moya, San Ramón’s mayor, explained that plans are underway to generate electricity from the landfill’s waste and thus serve as a model for other regions. Palmares council members are evaluating tenders from companies who wish to install a biomass electrical generation plant at the landfill. “This is a business, and therefore, it must generate revenue, and function well for the benefit of all the municipalities involved; otherwise it makes no sense to bring trash in from other cantons,” said Moya.


Grecia undertakes preventive public works


To avoid potential disasters from landslides and flooding, Grecia’s municipal government together with the National Emergency Commission (CNE) did some preventive work that included dredging the rivers, building canals and reinforcing the riverbanks in high-risk areas.


The areas of El Achiote, San Roque, Peralta and Santa Gertrudis Sur, were the focus of these public works. In each area, the river was dredged and dykes created to prevent houses form being flooded during the rainy season.



Palmares festival future hangs on Atty General decision


To avoid future legal repercussions and bad feelings among community members, the Palmares municipal council decided to respect a decree by Attorney General and the Comptroller’s Office regarding regulation of the festival events that are currently coordinated by diverse civic groups in the canton.


According to the Attorney General’s office, a duly appointed municipal commission must administer any large-scale event involving the sale of liquor. The law clearly states that all funds must be accounted for and must be used in a timely fashion to address the objectives established by each of the benefiting civic groups. This last point has been communicated to the local groups, said Rodolfo Hernández Carballo, president of the local council.


Jorge Isaac Vásquez Pérez, president of the Palmares Civic Association (APAC), voiced that “since last year, the local government has made several moves to prevent us from not organizing the festival in January, which would limit our ability to provide economic support to different civic groups in the canton.”


Similar to the Palmares municipal government, San Ramón’s could take similar actions. The spirit of the law makes commission members legally responsible for any misuse of public funds, and requires them to present a reliable accounting of income and expenses for the economic activities undertaken in the community.


Bridge over Trojas de Sarchí river to be repaired


With 3,000 kilos of tomatoes and a variety of dishes made from the red fruit, the community of San José de Trojas in Sarchí raised the $10,000 needed to repair a bridge that collapsed last November due to heavy rains.


Residents in this town, where 40 percent of the country’s tomatoes are grown, also baked breads, and prepared sweets, jams, sauces, and pickled relishes and vegetables as part of the fundraising effort that put their agrarian skills to use for community betterment.


Zarcero celebrated “green” festival

Aiming to highlight conservation of its natural resources, sustainable development and recovery of local culture, the “Feria Del Verde al Agua” was recently held in Zarcero.

The event was organized by Zarcero’s Chamber of Commerce and Tourism (COTUZAR), which focuses its efforts on developing the area’s tourist potential using a framework of environmental sustainability and with an emphasis on local traditions and culture.


Teacher Cecilia bids farewell


After five decades as an educator, Cecilia Cuadra said goodbye to students and parents of the San Ramón Laboratory School. In a simple ceremony, filled with conflicting emotions, somebody read a farewell letter she had written, as she was too overcome with sorrow at leaving the institution.


Afflicted by a decision not her own, but decided upon by authorities, teacher Cecilia wept behind the auditorium curtains as she listened to the letter.


This notable educator leaves behind her special mark on thousands of students who tread the hallways and passed through the classrooms of this school. In homage to her work, we have reprinted her farewell letter in Spanish in this edition.


Zapotal de San Ramón bridge awaits conclusion


Petitions by the San Antonio de Zapotal Development Association finally bore fruit – the Embassy of Japan will donate ¢52 million ($100K) to build a bridge over the river Victoria to connect Zapotal and Piedades Sur de San Ramón.


Residents of Zapotal must cross through the river, which in the rainy season can get quite high, to reach other communities of the zone.


This isolated village of 500, has a one-room school with 16-20 students. Small as it is, the Public Education Ministry’s innovative “tele-secondary” program allows all the students to pursue secondary studies.


Palmares to vibrate with Percussion Festival


The II International Percussion Ensemble Festival, to be held Friday, June 10 at 10 a.m. at the Palmares Bilingual Experimental High School, will feature a presentation by the group Panoramic from the United States and is free of charge.


Those in attendance will be treated to diverse creative, melodic and rhythmic sounds that will waken unexpected feelings and promises to captivate from beginning to end with the sounds of timbales, xylophones, marimbas, bongos, congas and other curious instruments.



Sarchí readies its first Youth Festival


The local Youth Council of Valverde Vega is putting the final touches on what will be Sarchí’s first youth festival. The event will combine sports, arts, culture, and environmental and educational activities.


The event is scheduled for the beginning of June and will be called “Revenge of the Communals” since the two teams who reach the finals during the festival will face off to determine who’s best.


The Eliecer Pérez Conejo stadium, the fairgrounds of the Civic Association and the Municipal Recreation Center will co-host the festival events.







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New water project for Palmares and San Ramón

Publicado por eloccidente En marzo - 31 - 2011

New water project for Palmares and San Ramón
• Project costs exceed US$9 million
• San Ramón one of the most water-rich cantons

The Water and Sewerage Department (AyA) is investing $9 million to meet the projected potable water needs in Palmares and San Ramón over the next 20 years, stated AyA spokesman, William Chaves.
The project involves several works including building a water line from the Barranca River, a pumping station, a conduit, a purification plant, and a storage tank; installing new pipes; and creating a distribution network between the two cantons.
The storage tank will be situated in Piedades Norte, San Ramón at the highest point of the nearly one-acre former location of Radio Sinai.
In April, the project will be up for public bidding, with construction beginning later this year and concluding in 2013.
The Urban Development Research Program’s (PRODUS) Rosendo Pujol said that although the exact amount of water in San Ramón has not been measured, it has one of the most abundant superficial water flows in the country. At the end of March, a hydrological study conducted by PRODUS will be completed. The study will detail important aspects of the region’s hydro resources that need to be taken into account by local authorities.

Municipalities need to balance mayoral salaries
The Comptroller General’s Office made a public call to reflect upon the need to balance salaries with municipal budgets. The office does not favor municipalities with small budgets having similar mayoral salaries to municipalities with large budgets.
As an example, the office cited Grecia’s municipality, whose budget this year includes US$8.4 million earmarked for community services and an additional US$71,000 for the mayor’s annual salary. Similarly, San Carlos’ operating budget is US$11.6 million with an extra $72,000 destined for the annual mayoral salary.
According to the Comptroller, the mayoral salaries should be set using an objective formula, and should not rival funds to meet local needs. The Comptroller requested that the Union of Local Governments review guidelines passed in 2009 that sets salary ranges for public employees.
Recently Gilberto Ruíz, Naranjo’s municipal president complained when the payroll increased; the increase has meant there is no money for new projects this year in the canton.
Palmares graduated 37 bilingual students
Just like last year, Palmares’ Bilingual High School, saw all of its seniors pass the international baccaleaureate exam.
The 37 students who were awarded the internationally recognized diploma in March joined the 33 who earned the same distinction last year from this public high school.
On March 5th, at 5 p.m., students and their families participated in a special graduate ceremony at the school.
The international baccalaureate degree is offered at 5 private schools and 3 public schools in Costa Rica. The program, founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1968, is active at over 2,000 schools worldwide.

Comptroller denies Naranjo’s budget request
• Palmares, Atenas and San Ramón overestimated their income, according to the Comptroller General’s Office.

Naranjo is hung up by delays in completing public works projects after the Comptroller General’s Office rejected their operating budget for this year.
The delays create additional administrative costs, requiring the local government to reformulate its budget and freeze hiring.
In a recent report, the Comptroller’s office partially rejected municipal budgets of Palmares, Atenas and San Ramón, due to an overestimation of expected income.
These budgets are being reformulated to cut out excessive costs associated with the inflated income expectations. The Comptroller warned that the municipalities could end the year with deficits if cost cutting measures are not put into place.
For 2011, the Comptroller approved the following budget amounts (listed here in U.S. dollar amounts): Zarcero, $1.13 million; Grecia, $8.3 million; Sarchí, $1.5 million; San Ramón, $7.2 million; Palmares, $2.1 million; and Atenas, $1.6 million.
Municipal officials have been cited over the years for budgeting errors, causing western cantons to face budget cuts in previous years. In 2009, Grecia, San Ramón and Palmares all had their proposed budgets denied due to a failure to follow the legal norms for budgeting, said the Comptroller.

Northern zone begins bridge construction

-¢150 million price-tag for San Carlos-San Ramón bridge

Four months have passed since a flash flood took out the bridge linking San Carlos to San Ramón, where Tres Esquinas de San Carlos unites with Peñas Blancas de San Ramón.

With no bridge, road traffic must go through Fortuna when the river is high; school children miss school, and farmers lose money by having to pay extra to transport their goods.

The 150 residents together with the MOPT and the local governments have agreed to foot the bill for the repairs.

Pablo Jiménez, San Carlos’ municipal engineer, said the 177-foot bridge would cost at least $294,000; and because it unites two cantons, the costs must be shared between the municipalities.

Community action unites San Ramón
Over 80 businesses and community members, foreign and tico alike, have come together in San Ramón to work on improving citizen security, natural disaster preparedness, economic development, and quality of life issues such as education, culture and environment. Through volunteer committees that devote time and energy to find creative ways to tackle these issues, Community Action Alliance is charting a new path for civic engagement.
Concerns over security led the group to organize two community policing workshops with a specialist from the U.S., a security summit with representatives from other parts of the country, and a security plan submitted to the country’s President. A $200K grant proposal recently submitted to the U.S. Embassy to bolster citizen safety in the San Ramón region will be decided upon in May.
Group coordinator, Mike Styles, says he and about 10 co-founders didn’t expect to have come so far since they started in August 2009, and, as a result, they are already in the process of incorporating themselves as a non-profit organization. The biggest success to date he feels is having brought together diverse residents and businesses to map out concrete strategies on issues of common concern, a strategy he feels is necessary for tackling complex community problems.

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Medical tourism presents business opportuniti

Publicado por eloccidente En marzo - 31 - 2011

Medical tourism presents business opportunities

Local and foreign investors have their eyes on San Ramón’s human and physical resources as they seek to develop medical tourism services, explained Gabriela Llobet, director of the Costa Rican Investment Board (CINDE), during a meeting with local community organizations. Some of the points of interest mentioned include local dynamics and idiosyncrasies, the exuberant plant and animal biodiversity of the forests, breathtaking vistas, and a range of cultural activities offered in the canton and neighboring communities.

Representatives from the Industry and Commerce Ministry, CINDE and the U.S. Embassy presented initial plans for a high-tech business park in the western region at the meeting, which was organized by the local Chamber of Commerce.

The importance of having a clear vision of the type of economic development the region wants as well as maintaining its traditions of literature and culture was a point emphasized by Llobet during the meeting.

Leaders are seeking the backing of President Chinchilla to move the project forward. If the project is declared of public interest, said Jorge Araya of San Ramon’s Chamber of Commerce, funds to build it can be more readily secured. A 7-hectare site near the highway has already been selected for the development, continued Araya.

Communities celebrate transfer of powers

In a celebration of democracy, San Ramón’s newly elected mayor, Mercedes Moya, assumed her functions as leader of the San Ramón Municipality. Similar public acts were held in cantons throughout the western region with members of the general public and municipal council representatives in attendance.

Both local residents and organizations expect elected mayors, council members and aldermen to commit to meeting the challenges of proposing and carrying out projects that foster community development and wellbeing.

One main issue that needs to be addressed throughout the region is better solid waste management that incorporates new technologies and encourages recycling. Some of the other main concerns of residents include road infrastructure, environmental conservation, more abundant and high quality jobs, and citizen security.

Grecia residents pay for groceries via cell phone

* Novel system of micro-payments through cell phone

* First time service is offered in all of Central America

Multipagos Internacional S.A. is now offering a novel system of making payments through one’s cell phone called Movifácil.

For those who don’t have access to credit cards, this service offers an alternative to using cash and can be purchased in various locations.

How does Movifácil work? A cell phone owner adds money to a card that is linked to the cell phone number. The card can then be used to pay for goods and services at participating businesses.

The program, which piloted in Grecia in November 2010, will extend next to Heredia, and then gradually to the rest of the country.

Zarcero inaugurates office of social wellbeing

The Family and Social Wellbeing Office inaugurated February 4 in Alfaro Ruíz aims to direct resources towards low-income and disabled residents to help improve their quality of life.

Over the next three months, 60 of the canton’s poorest families will be selected to participate as beneficiaries of the full-spectrum assistance provided by state institutions.

The project was initiated after a meeting in which community leaders brought to light the urgency of addressing the needs of the area’s low-income families.

Several government officials attended the center’s inauguration including Fernando Marín, executive president of IMAS and Family and Social Wellbeing Minister; Legislator Pilar Porras; and Juan Martín, Decentralization Minister and executive president of the IFAM.

Grecia eyed as future high-tech training site

* Grecia well positioned to house high-tech auditorium.

Alajuela’s Federation of Western Municipalities (FEDOMA) has proposed that Grecia’s municipality donate their FANAL site for the construction of a solid waste processing training center. FEDOMA has taken the lead in creating a solid waste management plan for the western region.

The center would provide high-tech education and training, and would feature a 100-person capacity auditorium, classrooms, a videoconference lab with the latest communication technology and an ample parking lot.

New program seeks to combat addiction in Naranjo

In mid-December, a rehabilitation program for people with substance addictions was started. A citizen-led initiative, the program received support from Naranjo’s municipal council members who have loaned space in the cultural center for the group’s activities.

Using the Narcotics Anonymous model, the program aims to promote family re-education to avoid dysfunctional interpersonal patterns that can lead to youth engaging in substance use and abuse.

San Ramon celebrates its 167th anniversary

The city’s 167th anniversary celebration highlighted the diverse social, economic and cultural facets of San Ramon’s identity.

Artisans and local innovators, the generators of culture, paid tribute to our forefather’s legacy by sharing their creative works. Sustaining and keeping alive the traditions that form the bedrock of identity is not easy in this fast paced world. We have trampled on and left behind practically every local, indigenous practice as if they never existed. The importance of recovering and reclaiming these values cannot be overstated.

Yensy Arroyo shared her family’s 150-year-old secret chinchiví concoction: an elaborately prepared spiced and fermented sugar-cane drink; leather-worker Miguel María Fernández was busy at his craft; Laura Montoya’s family offered handcrafted sobados - long, rope-shaped sugar-cane candies; and, rounding it out, was a chance to share with the oxcart men, or boyeros, Mario Alpízar and Marco Méndez. These interactions brought onlookers back to their roots by allowing them to experience the values and customs that are passed from generation to generation still today.

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Region Revving Up to Attract Foreign Investment

Publicado por eloccidente En marzo - 31 - 2011

Region Revving Up to Attract Foreign Investment

In 2011, municipalities and state institutions face mounting pressure to speed up bureaucratic procedures and streamline applications as competition for foreign investment grows.

The Ministry of Industry and Commerce is spearheading this strategic process to improve the administration of public services through an expedited bureaucracy. One of the most common complaints by local and foreign investors is the number of bureaucratic procedures and the duplication of functions and requirements among governmental institutions.

In Grecia and San Ramón, private businesses have joined with public agencies to begin the process of establishing free zones to increase employment opportunities for local residents, thus allowing the towns to grow from bedroom communities into dynamic local economies.

Preliminary data from Sept. 2010 show that 55 percent of foreign investment was in free zones, 25 percent in regular businesses, 11 percent in real estate, 6 percent in the financial sector, 3 percent in infrastructure, followed by 1 percent in tourism.

Of the gradually growing foreign investment in the country, local residents hope that part of that money will stay in the western region. Local businesses and public institutions are actively promoting and presenting the competitive benefits of the area.

January 21 in the San Ramón Municipal Hall, local organizations and banks will present their master plans for the creation of the longed for free zone. The U.S. Ambassador is expected to be in attendance, as well as private investors and other official representatives, said Jorge Araya of the local chamber of commerce.

UCR Western Branch Receives ¢3000 Million for Improvements

At its maximum capacity for housing students, San Ramón’s branch of the University of Costa Rica will receive 3 billion colons ($6 million) distributed evenly over the next five years to improve the campus’ infrastructure. The funds for improving the Western Campus will come from the university’s ordinary annual budgets from 2011-2016.

The Western Campus offers 21 academic degree programs, 11 of which offer a licenciature degree. The limited offering has not allowed for dynamic social, cultural, economic or political transformations in the region. Nevertheless, the increased support is necessary to strengthen the growing demand for a liberal arts education in the country.

Peñas Blancas Residents Create Agro-Ecotourism Association

A group of nine families from San Isidro de Peñas Blancas in San Ramón founded the Association for Rural Family Agro-Ecotourism Development with the aim of protecting the natural resources while also improving their socio-economic conditions.

The majority of the men in this hamlet of 120 must seek work in nearby cities and towns, leaving women excluded from educational and economic opportunities.

In Altura de Peñas Blancas in the hamlet of Lourdes, there is a lodge that sleeps 14 as well as several cabins located on participating farms. The area’s lush humid forest abounds in plants, birds, and mammals as well as hot springs and waterfalls. This bird-watcher’s paradise is located just 35 minutes from the magnificent Arenal Volcano.

Newly Built Public Education Building to be Demolished

Lack of oversight and quality control for public investments has been blamed for the decision by the Education Ministry’s San Ramón Regional Office to demolish a building with structural faults.

The building, situated near the Julián Volio Llorente high school, was inaugurated under the Pacheco administration and cost over ¢100 million to erect (almost $200K). After just a few months of use, the building’s drainage system collapsed, and investigators detected numerous other defects and problems.

Music an Ally in Reclaiming Local Identities

The Education Ministry’s San Ramón Regional Office is leading the charge in changing how public school students start their day. Instead of just singing the national anthem, they should also sing local anthems, claim the authorities. This will reaffirm each locale’s unique culture and identity.

The proposed change will initially be carried out in Naranjo, and extend to the towns of Zarcero, San Ramón, Palmares and Sarchí, stated Pedro Ureña, regional education director.

Sarchi Music School Receives Instruments

Wind and percussion instruments were donated by the local government to the Sarchi Association for Music Education to support youth in the high school band.

The band’s powerful musicality and melodiousness belie the youthfulness of its members, for whom forming part of the group is an important part of their personal development.

Naranjo Municipality In a Fix After Budget Annulled

After the Comptroller General’s Office rescinded the Naranjo Municipality’s budget due to inconsistencies, local officials scrambled to make modifications and adjust costs in order to wait out the financial crisis.

For 2011, the projected budget of ¢1.400 million ($2.78 million) was rejected, which means the municipality must revert back to the 2010 budget amount.

Atenas’ Cultural Life Growing

As foreigners continue to flock to the balmy hills of Atenas, the amount and diversity of cultural and recreational opportunities continues to grow.

Weekday classes offered for all ages at Su Espacio Cultural Center, across from the gas station along the main road into town, include Latin dance, guitar, zumba, pilates, aerobics, taebo, yoga, gymnastics, karate, ballet, dance, English and Spanish. For more information contact Tina Newton, center director, at 2446-7735 or

Newton’s creative cultural coordination efforts are also evident as this year’s Sundays in the Park series starts up. Art in the Park for kids will be held the morning of Feb. 20, and the 3rd Sunday in March will end the series that started in January with an evening drum circle.

Sunday, Feb. 13 is the 4th annual chili cook-off to benefit Atenas’ Hogar de Vida orphanage. Many locals have started marking this down-home social event on their calendar a year in advance.

And finally, keep the Feria del Clima on your radar for April when the downtown park fills with a wide range of concerts, activities, delicious food and fun for all ages over an entire weekend.

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