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¿Que Es Eso?

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In This Issue:

  1. Broken News (Autopista Expanding; Woof, Woof, I Love the Park; Tourism Still Growing; Happy, Happy, GGC Milestone)
  2. Rumble and Weather Talk (Turrialba Expected to be a Concern for Some Time, Summer Weather Here)
  3. ¿Que Es Eso? Department: Woodcut or Etching?
  4. Feature: The Circus is Leaving Town (No More Painted Wagons)
  5. Feature: Sarchi (Painted Wagons But Not a Circus)
  6. Health Stuff: Modified Crops and Golden Rice
  7. What's-in-a-Word (Answer to Que Es Eso, Las Carretas, Boyero)
  8. ROMEO Corner (Emilio's - Manuel Antonio)

Wisdom of the Ages

Nine Important Facts To Remember
As We Grow Older

#9 Death is the number 1 killer in the world.
#8 Life is sexually transmitted.
#7 Good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.
#6 Men have 2 motivations: hunger and hanky panky, and they can't tell them apart. If you see a gleam in his eyes, make him a sandwich.
#5 Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day. Teach a person to use the Internet and they won't bother you for weeks, months, maybe years.
#4 Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in the hospital, dying of nothing.
#3 All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.
#2 In the 1960's, people took acid to make the world weird. Now the world is weird, and people take Prozac to make it normal.
#1 Life is like a jar of jalapeño peppers. What you do today may be a burning issue tomorrow.

A GG Selfie

Publisher's Corner

If you would like to read a version of the Golden Gringo Chronicles
in a narrative format, as a hard copy novel or as an e-book,
check it out

RECENTLY RELEASED! Mariposa, A Love Story of Costa Rica



gthFive hundred years before the Spanish found the American continent, around the end of the first millennium, Native Americans lived and prospered in Central America, including the land now known as Costa Rica. Truly a natural wonderland then and now, the natives were able to employ their farming skills and prosper from the rich soils, the forests filled with game, herbs, and spices, and the lakes and two oceans rich with fish and crustaceans.


Mariposa, or butterfly, is a story about two young Native Americans, each a favored child of a chief, but of different tribes. These two tribes, historically hostile to each other, lived a few days march apart in the mountains north and east of Costa Rica’s central valley.


The two natives meet by accident, fall in love and begin to plan a life together only to be frustrated by events beyond their control. The lovers are eventually drawn to a mountain volcano which is thought by many to be the home of the gods, particularly Sib'ö, the Great Spirit, who they believe had created the world.


The story as written incorporates the classic ending of Costa Rica's Legend of Zurqui, one that reflects the beauty, mystery and spirituality that is Costa Rica.




Mariposa is available in both English and Spanish versions:


Preview the Book (English) on Amazon.com at: Mariposa Preview
(This is Chapter 1 in its entirety)

ORDER IT HERE ($8.95):


Mariposa (English Version)


Mariposa (Versión Español)


(Kindle Version Available in Both Languages - $6.99)

See All the Books by this Author Here: Books by Bob Normand


Broken News
(All the News That's Fit to Reprint)

Autopista Expanding

Almost exactly to the day, some seven years after it officially opened in January 27, 2010, an announcement was made that the Autopista (Ruta 27) will be expanded.


The Autopista, affectionately known as the "Pista", is the main artery between San José starting at La Sabana park on the west side of the city and running almost due west to Caldera just south of Puntarenas. It also was the expressway (sometimes) that replaced the need to use the old mountain road that runs from from Orotina through Atenas to get to the airport and the General Cañas expressway into San José.


CR27 is a main feeder to the Pacific coastal highway (Costanera Sur) that runs south along the coast from Puntarenas though Jacó, Parrita, Quepos, Dominical, Uvita and points near the Osa peninsula finally ending at the Panama border at Paso Canoas. To the north Route 27 feeds roads going to Nicaragua including the Intermericana or Pan American Highway.


If you're wondering who José María Castro Madriz is on the route sign in the photo to the left, check him out here: Madriz.


Pista, Near La Sabana, San José

This road became popular immediately because it cut the time between San José and the coast considerably. The old mountain road that runs between Atenas and Orotina that the Pista replaced was slow and dangerous especially when you tried to get around an overloaded truck groaning up a hill at 20 km/hour. But, if you have the time, that route is still photographically stunning with a smaller number of trucks than before, the Pista having attracted most of the truckers away.


Current traffic over the Pista is already more than double its original planned capacity. In many areas between the Atenas and Orotina cut-offs the road is just two lanes; in some it's three to help negotiate the hills (like in the photo above left). As it gets closer to San José there are four-lane sections and just before the road ends at La Sabana, the Pista becomes six lanes. The expanded highway will make most of the 77 km (46 mile) one lane sections wider.


Can this humble bus rider make a suggestion? This time make sure the main part of this expressway is six lanes all the way to Caldera from Santa Ana. More expensive you say; can't be, says I. No more than rebuilding the road every seven years.


Woof, Woof, I Love the Park


There are an estimated 525,000,000 stray and domesticated dogs in the world or 1 for every 15 people. If that ratio was applied to Costa Rica there would be about 300,000 dogs in Ticoland.


My experience here is that it is much higher and in fact the Associación de Rescate Animál of Costa Rica (Animal Rescue Association - but you probably got that one, didn't you?) estimates there are close to 2,000,000 dogs here, many of whom are strays. That's more like one dog for every 2.25 people (the U.S. by the way is one dog for every 4.3 people or a total of 75 million mutts). Yeah, that ratio for Costa Rica sounds more like my experience.


Artist's Rendition of San José Dog Park

Costa Ricans love dogs but many also see them as an important investment in home security. I can think of three homes on my block and the block adjacent to it that have two or three dogs and almost all the others have one. I like dogs and I'm on a personal basis with many of them in the neighborhood with the exception of two vicious ones that snarl and growl behind a fence. Those mutts would be better off in dog heaven in my opinion. All it takes is someone passing by to set off a cacophony of barking from them all. Woof, woof and woof again.


San José has a new and different answer to their large number of dogs; they're creating dog parks. These are fenced in sections carved out of existing parks like the large La Sabana park on the west side and Bella Vista Park in Pavas where it's estimated that 75 to 80% of the neighborhood homes have dogs. The parks will include "recreational" sections where the animals can take advantage of pipes, ramps and walkways. Owners will have benches (if the dogs allow them space). Because of generous contributions by local dog owners and others, the cost of conversion of these spaces is not expected to exceed a few thousand dollars for each park.


The big problem with dogs is with the strays. They carry ticks and other bugs and rip apart many trash bags in their search for food. They are often treated brutally by people as there is virtually no government control organization or humane society to deal with them. We do have in place, however, a certain number of volunteer organizations that help round up unwanted pets, both dogs and cats, and who conduct health and sterilization campaigns to alleviate the problem. One of these is PAWS (Pets of Aguirre Welfare Shelter) who do good work in our Canton. I've noticed a decline in the number of strays in Quepos since I arrived here in 2008 and I would venture to say that without the PAWS effort we would be dealing with a lot more strays. Buen trabajo amigos.


Tourism Still Growing


January Scene at a Costa Rican Beach,
Now What Is It That Attracts So Many Tourists?

In 2004, the first year that GG set foot on Costa Rican soil, the annual number of foreign tourists visiting Costa Rica was around 1.5 million. This number is based on border visa counts and is adjusted downward by ICT (Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, the government tourist board) to eliminate border crossings of foreign residents like GG.


In 2016, when the official numbers are released, the figure for the latest year is expected to be around 2.9 million, almost twice what it was in 2004 and which is about 12% higher than 2015. That's essentially 6 visitors for every 10 residents. At that rate of increase the number of annual visitors will exceed the population in about five years, which is what ICT projects.


I hope they don't all come in January and February; try September and October amigos, the rainy season can be fun too (and the white-water rafting is at its peak).


Happy, Happy


I have a neighbor down the block, a lady who owns a small shop in Quepos that offers some souvenirs as well as backpacks (bolsas) and waist belts, both of which I've bought from her. Her English is worse than my Spanish (yes, that's possible) but she's learned to ask "How are you"? She smiles all the time and one day pronounced that GG is "happy, happy". So now all I say when I see her and she asks "Como estas?" is "Happy, Happy?".


So my neighbor came to mind the other day when I picked up a press report that stated a recent survey was released that attempts to measure the degree of happiness expats have with their adopted country. The annual survey by InterNations, an organization that claims to have the largest number of expats in its membership around the globe does an annual survey of its members that results in a "happiness" ranking by country.


The 2016 survey was filled out by 14,300 expats around the world and covered 174 nationalities, living in 191 countries, who were asked to rate 43 different aspects of life abroad on a scale of 1 to 7. I don't know the details of this survey but will find out soon, as I just joined the organization.


Winning again this year? Costa Rica, of course (why do you think I'm writing this bit?). The next four countries listed were Malta, Mexico, the Philippines and Ecuador, in that order.


All I know at this point is that personally, I'm happy, happy.


GGC Milestone


The Washington Post or Time Magazine we ain't, but we are growing. Late in February the Golden Gringo Chronicles distribution reached 1,000 for the first time. At press time for this edition (February 28), distribution had reached 1,017, a 132% increase in the last two years.

GG has enjoyed every minute of writing about Costa Rica and I'm glad our readers like it too.


¡Solo Bueno!


Rumble and Weather Talk
(Shaky Happenings On or About the Pacific Rim)

Volcan Turrialba continues to be of concern as it keeps spewing out ash, sometimes light, sometimes heavier, into the central valley


Big Bad Volcan Turrialba (X)

Scientists have noted that Big Turri had a multiple year eruption some 150 years ago, in 1864-66. Records and record keepers were not as precise back then as they are now but samples of the output were saved from that period. Back then huge eruptions were recorded as well as reports of ash reaching as far west as Atenas. One report said flames were shooting out of the crater then.


I Never Saw Signs Like This in Florida

A UCR volcanologist mused that, if the current eruption cycle is a repeat of the one in the 1800's, we're due for two more years of what we've seen recently or maybe even worse (of course, musing is an art practiced by many when they really don't know what is likely to happen). The big smokie dude could also blow its top and some musers estimate it could throw ash as much as seven kilometers up and even more, maybe as high as twenty kilometers (4.5 - 12.5 miles). It's fun to muse, is it not?


(Forgive the shameless plug here but ancient Turrialba around the year 1,000 AD plays a central role in my new book, Mariposa, A Love Story of Costa Rica described in the Publisher's Corner above, - available in English and Spanish - my price - cheap)


On the weather front we are deep into the Costa Rican summer and haven't seen a quarter inch of rain in the last six weeks. It's sunny hot, humid and absolutely beautiful at the beach. The ocean water temperature is in the low 80's F and the waves are smaller than the rainy season, just the way GG likes them.


Why, just look at the beach scene to the left ... woops, wait a minute. I guess I got one of the press report pictures of the recent weather in the U.S. Northeast mixed up with the photo I had of Manuel Antonio beach. Sorry, but I think you got the message.


Check Out Recent Earthquakes Around the World Posted by the U.S. Geodetic Survey: Today's Quakes

Search the Golden Gringo Chronicles Archives for Topics That Interest You

You can use our Archives to search for everything that has been written in over 200 feature articles of the Golden Gringo Chronicles plus find Broken News items and ROMEO restaurant reviews. Enter your topic or item to search in the Google Search Routine below and follow the links offered from the search results. Suggestion: Enter only a simple, precise and unique as possible keyword or two in order to narrow the number of references retrieved:


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¿Que Es Eso? Department
(What is This?)




I'm buying coffee and a pastele for whomever (honestly) comes up
with the reason why this image is different


Is it a trick photo? Or maybe an etching or a woodcut?


No fair answering my question after looking ahead to the

answer in the What's-in-a-Word section below







The Circus is Leaving Town
(No More Painted Wagons)

This falls into the nostalgia-isn't-what-it-used-to-be department. A recent press announcement caught my eye; an announcement that Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, in operation for 135 years and once termed "The Greatest Show on Earth", was closing. Really?


This brought an immediate flashbacks to my yoot, going to circuses and carnivals. (William Howard Taft was president then - well, maybe it was not that far back). Carnivals happened in profusion within easy driving distance of where I lived. One of the more interesting versions of the carnival was the New England "Muster", a competition among firefighting companies using old hand-pumper fire engines, or "handtubs". The first firemen’s muster was held on July 4th, 1849 in Bath, Maine and these events have now spread across the nation. I watched a number of them when I was a boy that were lots of fun. The concurrent carnival was spread around the muster field.


This is how the competition works (from Wikipedia): "Each handtub has fifteen minutes to do as many streams as they want, any stream shot over the fifteen minutes limit is disqualified. The longest stream over 100' is their official score. To measure a stream, paper with footage markers along each side, is rolled out starting at 100' and extending to 290'. Water drops are measured to the nearest foot, then a yardstick, up to the furthest drop of water with the diameter of a dime, is used for exact measurement." (this is precision engineering amigos - see the video upper right)


htyBut back to the circus. I don't believe I ever attended "The Greatest Show on Earth", i.e., a Ringling Circus, but there were other circuses back then that traveled around New England where I lived and I do remember seeing an elephant or two up close. However, I may possibly be confusing this with a trip to a place like the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston; I was very young, maybe eight.


I can remember being impressed by the size of an elephant, the roar of a lion and the beauty of a tiger (I still am). And, of course, it was also about the showmanship with lots of pretty ladies dressed up in sparkling mini-skirts, as well as the barkers and the endless numbers of games of chance and skill that covered the grounds around the main tent.


But the name Ringling touched my life directly and indirectly in different ways over a long period of time. I felt compelled to write this article about the demise of an industry and company that was virtually an institution in and of itself.


The story begins in 1882 in the small town of Baraboo, Wisconsin where seven brothers ( Albert, August, Otto, Alfred T., Charles, John, and Henry), the sons of a German immigrant named August Frederick Rungeling, had grown up. Like many of the immigrants of those days, their family name was changed by Papa for easier spelling, in this case to Ringling. Five of the Ringling Brothers began by performing skits and juggling acts in public halls in nearby towns; their first performance being recorded for history in nearby Mazomanie, Wisconsin in 1882.


John Ringling

The brothers then expanded their act into a one-ring circus in 1884, adding a trick horse and a bear. They also purchased another small circus. Eventually they would purchase a 50% interest in yet another circus owned by James Anthony Bailey of Barnum and Bailey's circus. After Bailey died in 1906, the Ringlings secured more and more of the B&B holdings and finally completed the purchase of the rest of that circus becoming the famous Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1919. As time went on, one of the brothers, John (photo left), took the leadership roll in the company until he died in 1936.


In 1911, a couple of the brothers, John and Charles started buying land in the small town of Sarasota, Florida mostly to serve their personal needs. They continued to buy land throughout the 1920's and reportedly owned as much as 25% of the town at one point. During these boom years the Ringlings became "snowbirds" themselves and, in 1927, they also moved the winter headquarters for the circus from Bridgeport, CT to Sarasota. Sarasota became another place where my life crossed with the Ringling story.

I never thought much more about the circus after growing up until I moved to Sarasota in 2008 where, during the first couple of years that I lived there, the Ringling name seemed to pop up almost daily. In that town you'll find a Ringling Boulevard, Ringling Park, Ringling Art Institute, Ringling Museum (Circus Museum) and a Ringling Museum of Fine Art, the latter now being the Florida State Art Museum.


John and Mable Ringling Art Museum

It seems that John Ringling, riding high as a circus tycoon in the early 1900's and making a lot of money, used some of it to buy art in various forms. This included a collection of Old Masters' paintings (many at relatively bargain prices) such as Rubens, van Dyck, Velázquez, Tintoretto, Veronese, El Greco, Gainsborough and others. I had been to art museums in quite a few places by the time I arrived in Sarasota (the National Art Museum in Washington, The Met in NYC, the Louvre in Paris, the Prado in Madrid and others) but I was stunned by the quality of the collection at the Ringling Museum.


Ringling built a museum to house his collection and then left it to the people of Florida. The Ringling School of Art and Design, funded by the Ringling fortune is less than a mile down the Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41) from the museum and offers accredited college training in various arts including graphic arts.


Wagons in the Circus Museum

John Ringling also built a modest (yuk,yuk) 52 room mansion in an Italian Venetian style to house his family that he named Ca d'Zan which, in the Venetian dialect means "House of John". Ca d'Zan is now part of the state museum complex.


The museum complex also includes the Circus Museum that houses the story of the circus and includes some of those giant old wooden and highly decorated horse-drawn wagons that were used to transport the circus from town to town. Cultures focused on wooden wagons eventually get around to decorating them and Ringling was no exception (also, see the next article on Sarchi below).


So why is the circus ceasing operations after all this time?


Kenneth Feld of Feld Entertainment, the current owner of the circus was quoted by the press as giving these reasons: "...the circus is closing for a variety of reasons from declining ticket sales after the circus ended its popular display of elephants, changing entertainment tastes, high operating costs and prolonged battles with animal rights groups over using animals in the show."

The Circus Comes to Quepos

The end of an industry as we know it is probably inevitable no matter what the industry is yet I can't help but feel sad for all the little kids who will never be able to see "The Greatest Show on Earth".


About two days after I wrote this article I was walking along Quepos' Paseo Colón (stop laughing all you Joséfinos out there) when I was passed by a parade with loudspeakers announcing a circus is coming to town! I was startled to see a slow-moving file of vehicles, mostly trucks with signs announcing the Circus Portugal, whatever that is, will be in Quepos for a week.


I was so taken aback by this entourage and the timeliness of it after writing the article that I failed to get the times and places of performances but I'm sure they'll be obvious soon. It's hard to hide something that size in a town where the center is essentially four by five blocks.


I saw no elephants or tigers in the parade but there were lots of pretty ladies dressed up in sparkling mini-skirts sitting on top of the wagons (er, trucks). Now that's real circus.


So, maybe all is not lost in the history of the circus quite yet; there's still life in it in Costa Rica.


(P.S. The Circus Portugal actually came and went before I got a chance to see it)


(Painted Wagons But Not a Circus)

Costa Rica offers its own version of painted wagons as an art form. In this case, the wagons we are talking about were not part of a circus; they were designed originally as working vehicles, and still are used that way.


Back in the early days of Costa Rica in the mid 1800's, shortly after independence from Spain, coffee farmers transported their beans to port (first Puntarenas, then Limón) via oxcarts. The carts would have to be strong enough to not only handle a heavy load but they would be expected to traverse mountains and rocky paths. They would also encounter many a mud hole, particularly in the rainy season. For that reason the Costa Ricans redesigned European carts and chose wheels that were solid rather than spoked. Spoked wheels were much more likely to get bogged down in mud, solid wheels would fathom the mud better.


Early Oxcarts

The motive power for these carts was and still is oxen, a beast used as far back as ancient history around the world and which was brought to America and Costa Rica by the Spanish in the mid-1800's. Oxen have been a reliable beast of burden in Costa Rica since that time. Horses, also introduced here by the Spanish, were not as effective nor as available nor as easy to raise as oxen.


Boyero Parade

The practice of painting oxcarts came about in the early 20th century. At first the patterns on the wheels and sides of the cart were such that they distinguished what locale within Costa Rica the carts hailed from. After some time however, faces and intricate designs came into vogue and that gave rise to artistic competition and festivals built around the colorful oxcarts. These colorful carts appear in many a festival around the country today but, in particular, they take center stage at the ¨Dia Nacional Del Boyeros¨ which happens annually in Escazu in March.


A Shop in Sarchi
World's Largest Oxcart

The undisputed center of oxcart manufacture and the art form today is the small town of Sarchi, less than 10,000 population, located about 45 km (27 miles) northwest of San José in the province of Alejuela. The town boasts over 200 shops that offer locally fabricated wooden products including, but not limited to, oxcarts.


Among these shops you will find the 115 year old Joaquín Chaverri Oxcart Factory where you can find artists actually painting the oxcarts. Then there is the Taller Eloy Alfaro ("Don Lolo"), a workshop that produces oxcarts using machinery powered by a waterwheel and most of same machines used in the manufacturing of oxcarts for a hundred years.


Sarchi Rocker

The work of these artisans has become a familiar Costa Rican trademark and their presence is seen throughout Costa Rica. GG was in a local Quepos supermarket (Mini-Price) recently and noticed that a small Sarchi cart, beautifully decorated and similar to the ones pictured at top right, was used for a food products display.


There is a special cart in the center of Sarchi that pays tribute to the artisans and is the "World's Largest Oxcart" (right - look at the dude standing next to it and the little girl standing on the yoke). This cart was created in 2006 simply to establish the record for the world's largest oxcart. That it did, and that record still holds. It's likely it will remain that way and also stay unused unless someone creates the world's largest oxen to pull it.


Sarchi's products are not limited to just oxcarts. Wood-based products from the craftsmen in Sarchi are prolific. These craftsmen take advantage of the stunningly rich woods available in the country, some of which have variegated grains from blonde to mahogany in the same piece.


Products made from these woods range from salad bowls to furniture. GG has a Sarchi rocking chair (upper left) in my home made out of wood and leather. These are common all over the country and beyond as well. Other woods used are exceedingly rich in tone and color and are often used in cabinetry in more expensive homes. Examples of the bowls and the cabinetry are to the right.


There is much more to see in Sarchi and the surrounding area than las carretas (the Spanish name for the wagons - see What's-in-a-Word below) and wood products. In the center of Sarchi, like in most every town here and in Europe, is a church. This one is often referred to as the "Wedding Cake" church because of its elaborately detailed painting and piping - see photo left. Inside this church, which is located on a hill above the north side of town near the central park, there is a vaulted hardwood ceiling and carvings by local artisans.


Jardin Else Kientzler

Also, on the north side of town there is a beautiful botanical garden (Jardin Else Kientzler) that covers over seventeen acres and has a collection of more than 2,000 plants. Besides an extensive collection of Costa Rican orchids and other tropical flowering plants and trees, the garden features plants that originated from Guyana, New Zealand, Madagascar, Japan, the Bahamas, Java, Brazil, India, and Korea.


Volcan Poas

And if all of this in Sarchi is not enough to see and keep you busy, remember that when you are in Sarchi you are in the midst of Costa Rica's central spine of mountains including some of our inactive and active volcanos. Volcan Poas, for example, is only about 25 miles by car from Sarchi. This volcano has stayed partially active for a long time and occasionally spits up a geyser of water to make its presence known. La Paz Waterfall, one of the most beautiful in the country is also only about 27 miles away and offers an astounding aviary and reptile collection.


This part of Costa Rica will give you another splendid example of why we call Ticoland paradise.


To read more on the history of coffee (and bananas and the railroad that eventually replaced the carts) go here: Choo Choo Chiquita.

¡Pura Vida!



Health Stuff

Note: The information given in this section is offered as news information only and does not indicate GGC confirmation or denial of the accuracy of the treatment or a recommendation to pursue it, nor can we or do we guarantee the efficacy of the results nor validity of the conclusions proffered. (How's that for a disclaimer?)


I can remember a discussion among some friends about 15 years ago where we talked about a relatively new scare that had emerged on the scene, namely, the concern for "genetically modified" crops. At that time I remember a gentleman farmer from Indiana who was visiting Florida who said: "We've been modifying crops for centuries, that's what cross-breeding and biotech is all about, making better plants".


In recent years there's been a lot of argument about how modification of crops purportedly is a danger but little proof in the way of clinical studies or other results that confirm a danger from these crops has been offered. Now, a distinguished panel of 100 Nobel Laureates has called on opposition groups to modified crops to cease their opposition this way:


Golden Rice

"Scientific and regulatory agencies around the world have repeatedly and consistently found crops and foods improved through biotechnology to be as safe as, if not safer than, those derived from any other means of production. There has never been a single confirmed case of a negative health outcome for humans or animals from their consumption."


They pointed out certain facts such as the ability of genetically modified crops to reduce the use of pesticides in agriculture by 37 percent, increase crop yields by 22 percent while making farms more competitive, an important factor in developing countries. As an example, they mentioned "golden rice". This new version was designed to counteract Vitamin A deficiencies that affect children in particular. The Nobel laureates note in their letter that lessening Vitamin A deficiency has the greatest impact on impoverished people in Africa and Southeast Asia.

Sounds like a good deal to me. I wonder if golden rice tastes as good as it looks?




Travel Quote of the Month




Answer to Que Es Eso



No, it's not an etching, it's coffee art.


And we're not talking about those artistic designs you find in good pastry shops and restaurants, like the one pictured in the top photo left. We are talking about paintings produced using coffee as a medium, like the second photo left.


In recent years, particularly in coffee producing countries like Costa Rica, creative artists have taken to producing art using coffee (I presume a strong brew) as a paint. The amount of detail and, in my opinion, the mood created by this medium is incredible (of course, GG never got an award as an art critic). Look at the that picture to the left of a man with a cigar. It's a profile of a worker by one of Costa Rica's outstanding coffee artists, KS Villalobos del Castillo. Wow; seems to me that the coffee enhances the artist's detail.


And some of these artists are exploring more complicated compositions. Another Costa Rican coffee artist, Saul Bolaños has developed a process of applying coffee to the photographic emulsion used to develop a standard photo (OK, that's gotta leave out selfies - well, maybe not; I might look good in espresso). Using both powdered and liquid coffee as a pigment to make up a photo image, instead of the standard silver emulsion, he has at the same time developed a special secret chemical process to make the images absolutely permanent. Here's how he reports it:


"In 1989, I discovered a strange reaction. I made a photo image, which, after being covered with coffee extracts, reacted outside of a darkroom -- and the coffee took the place of the image. The quantity of coffee ‘fixed’ by the image was in direct proportion to the amount of oxide in the image, thus giving a perfect gradation of opacities (middle tones) made up of coffee.”


Bolaños has developed a process with a patent and trademark, calling it "Cafegrafia" and the resulting product of his secret process is an permanent and durable image that can be applied to almost any substrate, like the plate to the left with Elvis on it.


The possibilities of coffee art are limited only by creativity. Here are some more samples (I love the man-god-coffee interpretation):


Such an Idea... Good Coffee Started with Creation What's Up Doc?


Las Carretas



Wagon. A carreta may be a cart without a cover or a wagon with a cover. In Colombia it can also be a falsehood or lie ("Lo que te contó Luz es pura carreta." "What Luz told you is a lie". In Colombia it can also mean a chat, as in: "¡Qué carreta me eché con mi novia anoche!" or "What a chat I had with my girlfriend last night!" (Wagon, lie, chat; I love it when Spanish words are so flexible.)



A herder or a driver, particularly of oxen or other cattle.




ROMEO Corner
(Retired Old Men Eating Out)

Emilio's Cafe

Location: Top of Manuel Antonio hill on the road to Hotel Mariposa (20 meters west of the main MA
road to the beach) just east of the hotel on the same side of the road.
Hours: 7 AM to 9 PM, Wednesday thru Monday, Closed Tuesdays
Parking: Limited to a small parking area shared with other businesses and to the side of the road.
Contact: Tel.: 2777-6807; Email: N/A; Website: N/A

Reviewing ROMEOS: Mark G., Chris F., Bob N.

To Review Our Rating System and Procedure, go here: R.O.M.E.O. Rating System


This restaurant was last reviewed when it first opened in this location in 2013. To see that review, go here: December 2013.


The tables are plain wood and the chairs do have some padding, at least the one I had did. Table decorations are minimal.


The basic layout at the restaurant is the same, a relatively small room overlooking some of the Manuel Antonio islands but there is one notable change since it opened. The dining room, at least for this visit has become quite crowded (not like the caricature left at all) with tables placed in just about every possible location, including along the entry walkway, and the feeling is that of being crunched into the room. A trio band composed of a sax, a keyboard and a drummer was placed off to one corner of the room and was also playing loud enough to make it a bit difficult for table conversation.


The composite score from the ROMEOs for ambiance was 3.0 sloths of a maximum 5.


The menu consists of a dozen or so entree selections, mostly of seafood. GG had an appetizer of fresh, raw chunks of tuna (Poke tuna) marinated and spiced that was delicious. I followed that with a chicken dish (turned out to be a leg, not breast) covered in a light sauce flavored with cardamom and a couple of other spices. It was accompanied with chopped salad and plain white rice. Tasty but not as creative a dish as I had experienced in previous visits.


Desserts continue to be the highlight of food here (breakfast options are interesting also). We sampled a Mississippi mud pie and chopped pecan tart, both excellent.


The composite score from the ROMEOs for food quality was 4.0 of a maximum 5.

Value Index = 88


Service was friendly and polite if, at times, a bit disjointed. By this I mean that standard service in this area, as was practiced that night, means that courses and accompaniments don't usually come in at the same time but more as the plate is ready by the kitchen. You know, one person's entree is delivered when it's ready while the others wait there turn; coffee is delivered long after the dessert etc. The composite score by the ROMEOs for service came in at 3.5 and that yields a total composite for ambiance, food quality and service of 3.5.


The cost of my tuna appetizer, chicken leg and mud pie plus one coke and one coffee came in at 22,500 colones or about $42.75. This is considerably higher than what I encountered in the earlier review and I did notice that two of the specials on the chalk board (surf and turf for example) were priced at $30 each. The composite ROMEO score for cost was 4.0 out of 5 maximum. That puts Emilio's in the top 20% of Manuel Antonio restaurants, cost wise, and yields a value index of 3.5/4.0 x 100 = 88.


Emilio's continued to be a good option for dinner but it seems to have taken on more of a standard Manuel Antonio performance than it had in its early days.


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