Snapshots of Barrio Amón

Most of Costa Rica is on vacation until January 5th. The days leading up to this moment have been characteristic of every December in Tiquicia in that the streets become a throbbing throng of money-maddened shopping zealots, junkies yearning to quench their thirst for pirated copies of Shrek, hard-candy gift sets, rubber pants, whatever is around.

Costa Rican law requires that all salaried employeed be paid an aguinaldo, which is an extra full month’s salary. Flush with cash, Ticos gas up their cars and take to the streets, smashing into each other seemingly without care and clogging the streets to the point that I expand my walking district to a 5km radius as that distance is easier covered on foot than by car.

Rush hour begins.

Nearby, I spied these buildings.

Rooms by the hour

For some reason this picture got turned sideways, and I don’t care enough to fix it. This place rents rooms  by the hour, in case you get the itch while stuck in traffic. Additionally, this region becomes a prime place to pick up transvestites at night. Many of these trannies are better looking than most women, just with a little surprise for the uninitiated.

This place is also on my route home. I don’t know what it is, but it looks like it was probably pretty nifty at one point.

A little urban decay.

These neighborhoods are some of the more interesting ones in the city, the only places where any concentration of old buildings have been left standing. But municipal building codes and a culture of tearing down signs of the past will likely force these neighborhoods little by little into the boxy, uncreative modernity that many Ticos seem to favor. It’s too bad, since the local tourism board frequently wonders how to draw more visitors interested in Costa Rica’s culture to the country, to complement the healthy number of nature-loving arrivals. With a few tweaks to the Historic Preservation code and vision by city leaders, San Jose could still halt the destruction of its past and preserve (and indeed improve) the cultural face of the capital. But for those of us who have lived here long enough, we know that that’s likely to be little more than wishful thinking.

Old and new on the edge of downtown

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