First Week in Costa Rica

Submitted by Alejandro Trujillo-Reyes on the 2024 Winter SPAN program in Costa Rica…

During my first week in Costa Rica, I got a bus tour of Heredia, visited a Toucan Rescue Ranch, took a museum tour in the capital of San Jose, and visited one of the largest active volcanoes named Volcan Irazu, and visited some of the most historical Catholic churches in Costa Rica. During the bus tour, we visited one of the most historical monuments in Heredia. El Fortin is a high tower that was built in 1876 as a military lookout post. In1974, it was declared as one of the national monuments of the town. It is near a beautiful park, a market, and other churches. Our second excursion was visiting a Toucan Rescue Ranch after class. During this visit, I had the opportunity to see toucans, sloths, monkeys, owls, and parrots. Not only did we see these animals, but we also learned about the history of why they were in the rescue ranch. A lot of these animals were either hurt by dogs, saved as a pet, or were brought by people in Costa Rica because of people thinking that the animals had no home or family. During our tour of San Jose, we visited the national theater of Costa Rica. We were able to see all floors of the theater, learn the history, and even sit in the original seats of the theater. During our free time, my friend and I walked around to find places to eat. We had some amazing tacos. Yesterday, we visited Volcan Irazu. This was my first time going to see an active volcano. To my surprise, it was cold at the
top of the volcano. We then had a buffet style lunch with an amazing view. Finally, I went to of Basilica de la Virgen de Los Angeles . This church is found in the historic city of Cartago.It is important as it is a shrine to the patron Saint of Costa Rica, the Virgin of Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles. The Basilica also has a small statue of the Virgin Mary carrying Jesus. The legend says
that a peasant girl discovered the statue in the 17th century. It is a popular destination for pilgrimages. Exploring this church, included us seeing the back side, front, and inside of the church. As soon as we entered, I observed a replica of the church along with a chart that demonstrated the progress of the church being built throughout the years. As we walked through the church, I noticed that it had the important Catholic saints that are the patron saints for their respective countries in Latin America. I took photos of the Dominican Republic’s (Nuestra Señora de Las Mercedes) and Mexico’s (Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe). I found it very amazing to see these posters up through the hallway, as it shows a deep connection between the Latin American countries that have Catholicism as their main religion.

As we continued to walk through the back side of the church, we saw a line of people standing in line to pray to the sculpture of la Senora de Los Angeles. Our tour guide mentioned in the bus that many people do this in Costa Rica as well as it is a tradition to also bring a charm of the thing that you are praying for. For example, those who were praying to have a body part healed, would bring a charm of that body part. I was honestly shocked to see the amount of glass cases filled with charms. As someone who prays, it was heartwarming seeing how many people in Costa Rica also do so. The most beautiful part of coming to see this church in Costa Rica, was going down to the bottom part of the outside, to see several fountains of Holy Water. I along with my peers went down to bless myself with the water, as well as drink it. This was a moment for me that I’ll cherish forever. One of my biggest goals during my stay here in Costa Rica was to reconnect with my Catholic side. As someone who was born into a Catholic household, we sometimes forget to find the meanings of things behind our religion. Lastly, I went inside the church. Mass was being held, and I was amazed by seeing the amount of people inside the breathtaking church. The feeling was one that I’ve felt before while being in a Catholic church in the US. Words can’t describe the fulfillment I felt today experiencing my visit to the Basilica de la Virgen de Los Ángeles. (Submitted on January 15, 2024)

Basilica de la Virgen de Los Angeles