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Traditions and Tamales in Costa Rica :



Feliz Navidad! Is it too early to say that? Nah– It is now officially Christmas season.

Unofficially, it started sometime in October. I saw Christmas decorations in stores and the occasional house festooned with lights sometime before the first of November. The park in town got its lights strung this past weekend, and the Festival de Luces is only about a week away.

The Tropical Christmas is unique. We sing Jingle Bells and Silent Night while sweating in the heat. December sees the rainy season on its last legs, and there is ample sunshine, while our surroundings are at peak green lushness.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Ticos’ smiles get a little bigger because it is the holiday season, a magical time with a magical word: Aguinaldo.

Double payday for tens of thousands. Colons flow, coffers are filled, schools are out for summer, it is a month for fiestas.

The annual Gordo lottery drawing will hold the public’s attention, and no one I know will win anything. Grifters and pickpockets are out in force as well, and the local radio and tv stations will make public service announcements warning people to be careful with those aguinaldos.

Over time the northern Christmas traditions have made their way here. The traditional Costa Rican house decoration used to be the creche, the Nativity scene: The manger, the farm animals, and Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus all set up as a centerpiece for the month.

With time, the Tico way of commemorating has become a hybrid, so along with the Nativity scene you may find a decorated Christmas tree and Santa and his reindeer overlooking the solemn creche. One timely Christmas tradition here is the making and sharing of tamales.

My wife’s family find me odd for many reasons, one of which is that I don’t like tamales. My limit is one, and it is a courtesy tamale. I respect the process, the time and love that goes into making a batch. But for me it is a lot of work for a little food: Unwrap the banana leaf, tear open the wobbly soft corn meal outer coating, and inside it looks like somebody stole the lunch of the poorest guy in town.

A small chunk of chicken, a spoonful of rice, a slice of carrot, a green bean, a sliver of bell pepper doesn’t hit the spot, and all that wobbly corn meal sits in my stomach like a toxic beach ball.

But I am an outlier here and tend to keep my opinion of tamales to myself. It is a month for family get-togethers and surprise visits. My wife is from a large campesino family, she was the 12th of 14 kids, and has nieces and nephews who are her elders.

Her extended family numbers over a hundred, and I will hope to remember everyone’s name when we meet. (I once told my wife–I love your family, it’s just that there are SO MANY OF THEM!) So bring on the pig roasts and the Rompope toasts, shoot off some low explosive pyrotechnic devices, and let’s all sing ‘Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow’, while getting sunburned at the beach.

On Christmas Eve night (Nochebuena), church services compete with the random barrio fireworks displays, and firecrackers go off through the night.

The Tropical Christmas– I love it, and wouldn’t trade it for the celebrations in the frozen north. As long as there is someone to eat my share of the tamales.

Feliz Navidad!

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What is it Like to Live in Costa Rica?This is What National Geographic Says About our Country ⋆ The Costa Rica News



In its Travel edition, the prestigious international magazine National Geographic recounted what it is like to live in the country of “Pura Vida”.The journalist José Alejandro Adamuz detailed in an article in the publication his experience on the beach, but also in the city and other points.

These are the observations he made at various points:


The friendliness and hospitality of Costa Ricans are aspects that define the experience of traveling in Costa Rica, especially for those who decide to travel alone. The usual warmth and friendly treatment of people creates a welcoming atmosphere, making travelers feel safe and cared for.


Costa Rica’s reputation as one of the safest countries in Latin America is real. Yes, even in Chepe. They have been one of the favorite destinations for North American tourists for years and this is evident in the hotel infrastructure. Additionally, the efficient and affordable public transportation system makes it easy to get anywhere in the country. (…) There, if you tell the driver to let you know when he is close to the place you are going, you can be sure that he will let you know. Not only him, surely everyone in the passage will do the same.


Exploring Costa Rica by car provides a unique freedom to discover stunning landscapes at your own pace. You never know when a Caribbean sunset is going to make you want to stay on the beach until the night dragonflies appear. However, it is crucial to take precautions, such as avoiding stopping in lonely places in case of mechanical problems. It is advisable to always use navigation devices, in addition to renting a 4×4 because they perform well on any road and situation. Sometimes the terrain in Costa Rica can be more adventurous than one expects (or would like).


You have to try pejibaye, jocote or mamón. I remember what they told me once in a fruit shop: Everything from Costa Rico, only the grapes are from Peru. Costa Rican gastronomy is a feast for the senses, with influences from Latin and Caribbean cuisine.

Drinking water

This is a small detail that fascinated me: not depending on finding a store to buy bottled water to drink. Although bottled water is more recommended for short-stay travelers to avoid possible gastrointestinal problems, when you have been in Costa Rica for a while, you can drink tap water without a problem.

Connection with other travelers

The demand for security, hospitality and nature makes Costa Rica a country where many travelers tend to converge, so the ease of meeting people along the way skyrockets and is one of the biggest secrets of traveling alone through Costa Rica. Hostels and hostels become ideal meeting points for socializing.

Challenge Directions

The peculiar address system in Costa Rica, based on physical reference points, sometimes with the added problem that they can be references from the past, ranging from a church, a bar, a grocery store or a school, can be disconcerting for Travellers. Although in San José, for example, the streets and avenues are numbered, people usually give the address “tico”.

Spanish, Tico and English

As in the rest of Central America, the predominant language is Spanish. However, Costa Rica has a long tradition of receiving American tourists, so it is normal for English to be used in the tourism ecosystem for much more than just announcing vacant rooms. It may not be something to take into account for Spanish travelers, but it is one of the reasons why Costa Rica welcomes so many travelers from all over the world: it is easy to communicate with Ticos.

Pure Life dude

“Puravida” is not just an expression or a cliché, but an entire way of life in Costa Rica. Used to greet, say thank you or say goodbye, it represents a philosophy of a relaxed, calm and happy life, anyone’s dream. This mentality positive transcends from orality to the travel experience.

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6,000 Costa Ricans Die Each Year from Cancer but the Number Could Double in Less Than Two Decades, Experts Warn ⋆ The Costa Rica News



In Costa Rica each year, more than 13,000 people are diagnosed with cancer and more than 6,000 die from this disease.According to the World Health Organization (WHO), by 2040, the number of new cases and deaths in the country will almost double.

This drastic increase would occur if actions are not taken promptly and decisively to stop the avalanche of cancer cases and deaths that could occur. That is what specialists Warner Alpízar, an expert in tumor biology at the University of Costa Rica, and Luis Bermúdez, from the Robotic Radiosurgery Center, consider.

“Thanks to improvements in social and health conditions, life expectancy has increased substantially,” they highlight.“However, living longer leads to a longer exposure time to environmental and lifestyle factors strongly associated with the risk of developing cancer,” both warn.

Researchers list a series of elements as possible causes of diseases such as cancer. Among them they mention:




Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light

Excessive alcohol intake

Early diagnosis:

According to experts, to stop these growing trends, efforts must be redoubled in early diagnosis.“We have to take into account that early detection by itself does not bear fruit if it is not part of a more comprehensive strategy, which also reinforces timely access to treatment and prevention,” they consider.

They emphasize that it is essential to guarantee that people suspected or already diagnosed will receive expeditious and more efficient treatment for their disease.“And while the patient waits, the disease progresses, which reduces their chances of survival, impairs their quality of life and makes treatment more expensive,” they lament.

Cancer Advancement

As the cancer grows in size, the cancer cells accumulate more mutations – DNA damage, their instruction manual.“Therefore, the diversity of malignant cells increases and this affects the growth and degree of tumor aggressiveness. With this, it is increasingly likely that resistance to anticancer therapies will emerge,” the specialists explain.

Over time, the likelihood of cancer cells breaking away from the primary tumor, spreading to other sites in the body, and forming metastases also increases,” they added.This situation is key in the management of the disease. It is estimated that 90% of cancer deaths are due to metastatic cases.

Nutrient depletion

Another aspect that worsens over time is the uncontrolled growth of cancer cells, which excessively and inefficiently consume the nutrients that are necessary for the healthy cells that make up the body’s tissues.

“The larger the cancer, the more the person’s physical condition deteriorates, because normal cells are left without the necessary inputs for their functions,” the doctors detail.

Taken together, the biological factors make it clear that a cancer detected and treated late is synonymous with a more aggressive disease, which worsens the probability of survival, quality of life and increases the cost of care for the health system.

Diagnosis and treatment

Epidemiological studies have shown in practice that the time between diagnosis and treatment of a cancer patient is critical if mortality is to be reduced.For example, a 2020 study concluded that for every month of delay in the treatment of a person with this condition, the risk of death increases by about 10%.

Doctors consider that in Costa Rica it is necessary to define strategies that reduce the time that elapses from when a patient is referred for suspicion until treatment.In first world countries such as Iceland, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, the target time between referral for suspicion and treatment is eight weeks, while the period between diagnosis and treatment is four weeks.

“There are no times”

“If we look at the case of Costa Rica, there is no target time at the country level in the path of the cancer patient. In addition to this, each region and hospital in the country has different management,” the specialists highlight.

According to the consensus of three national oncologists, who were consulted, in Costa Rica there are no statistics on the average time that passes between the referral for suspected cancer and the patient’s treatment.In some hospitals the time between diagnosis and treatment could be four weeks, the time between suspicion and diagnosis can be several months.

“One of the causes of this is due to the lack of specialists, which leads to enormous waiting lists and deadlines for reporting procedures of six months to a year,” the two experts acknowledge.

“This situation is alarming. If for every month of delay in the treatment of the disease the risk of death increases by 10%, as the study showed, in Costa Rica cancer patients could have a risk of mortality that is up to 50% higher, compared to other countries“, they point out.

This could be one of the reasons why, despite the fact that diagnosis has been improved, the incidence of cases is similar to first world countries, but the cancer mortality rate is the second highest in Central America and Mexico and similar to that of Honduras.

For specialists, a change is urgently needed in Costa Rica to reduce the increase in incidence and mortality. Some of the actions they recommend are:

Attack the structural problems that the health system currently presents

Improve access to services

Guarantee the training of more specialists

Reduce waiting times

Invest in cutting-edge technologies

Streamline bureaucratic systems with the intention of guaranteeing patient access to the most effective treatments currently available

“In summary, it is crucial to establish a country goal in the path of the cancer patient, because although time heals wounds, in the fight against cancer, time is our worst enemy,” they concluded.

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“Pura Vida City” Will Make San José the Epicenter of Culture, Technology and Entrepreneurship ⋆ The Costa Rica News



The Costa Rica Chamber of Commerce and Givi announce the launch of a digital tool that will revolutionize and redefine the urban experience in San José, this coming March 2. It is “PURA VIDA CITY, a unique proposal in the capital that will involve more than 200 businesses.

“PURA VIDA CITY by Givi” is an integrated platform that will not only facilitate the city’s cultural agenda in one place; but will also allow the acquisition of tickets, commercial offers and coupons in a way never seen before.

With the aim of maximizing the experience of each attendee, it is estimated that the benefits will reach an approximate value of 300,000 colones per person, including discounts, royalties, raffles and much more.This event seeks to increase the commercial chain and visibility of local businesses through the Givi application.

“We are pleased to be part of this dynamic of urban activation that enhances the economy of the capital’s businesses. From the Costa Rica Chamber of Commerce we support initiatives like this, in which in addition to art, culture and technology, entrepreneurship is also given an important space,” commented Lisette Campos Suárez from the Costa Rica Chamber of Commerce.

Urban activation

All this dynamics will be experienced in four Josephine spaces, which will be divided into gastronomy, environment, culture and technology pavilions. These pavilions will be: Sendero, Jardín de Lolita, Josefino and Plaza Skawak, located in a cultural circuit that extends from Paseo de lasDamas to Avenida 33.

Those who attend “PURA VIDA CITY by Givi” will enjoy culinary tastings, local and international flavors, exclusive discounts, royalties, Startup Stand concerts, workshops and exhibition of experiences of the new way of living the city.

Interacting with the city’s culture and commerce

“We are excited to introduce a platform that innovates the way we interact with the city’s culture and commerce. ‘Pura Vida City’ is the perfect setting to demonstrate the potential of this tool and continue contributing to economic reactivation,” PietroSudasassi, Project Director at Givi.

This event is the result of a vision shared by Givi, San José 24×7 and the Costa Rica Chamber of Commerce. The objective is to create an ecosystem that allows local and international tourists to know and experience all the cultural and commercial offerings of the city.

Event Details:

Date: Saturday, March 2, 2024.

Time: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with after parties in various parts of San José until 2 a.m. on March 3.

Location: Lolita Garden, Sendero, Plaza Skawak and Josefino. In addition to several shops in the Historic Center, La California and Escalante.

Registration and Additional Information: Those interested should visit to register and discover all the benefits available.

For more information on “Pura Vida City by Givi,” including the full event agenda, details on the themed pavilions, and scheduled performances, please visit

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