3 (or More) Books to Read First
"The Green Phoenix" By William Allen
The story of the founding and rebuilding of a unique tropical dry forest. The vision of a gringo genius, Dan Janzen, combined with the hard work and valiant efforts of the International and Costa Rican conservation community to reverse the ravages of humankind in a new way.
Great cast of characters. Long term project. Rebuilding a dry forest without mass replanting - how was it done? The nice thing about this story is "it is working". Restores your faith in the future of the planet. This is a story that probably will never be repeated - if you get a chance you can visit the current state at the Guanacaste National Park.
Mr Janzen has had a huge hand in the ideas and actions that have established the parks system in Costa Rica as a treasure for all who come here.
The story of the founding of the National Parks of Costa Rica and the particularly valiant efforts of two Costa Ricans - Boza and Ugalde. The tireless efforts of these two geniuses with a real vision of the future are an inspiring tale of possibilities for other developing countries.
"Balancing political enlightenment with environmental concerns" maybe one synopsis that describes the efforts of many people to make the parks system a reality. In 1969 not a single acre was under protection from the government - now over a quarter of the country is protected. This book is out of print but email us for a source which has some used ones.
"Married to a Legend" Don Pepe By Henrietta Boggs
It is rare to find a first hand account of Costa Rican history in English. This is the original English language version of Henrietta Boggs' memoir of meeting, living with and leaving Don Pepe. The story takes place in the formative years of Don Pepe's brief but profound revolution in 1940 to 1949 with the rewriting of the constitution (hard to tell the exactly dates as Henrietta wasn't much into them).
Don Pepe's decision to abolish the army appears to have been a single minded decision after his frustration with the disloyalty of his minister of the Interior, Cardona, who attempted a counter coup in 1948. The book is a fascinating inside view of this Catalonian descended charismatic who commanded any room he walked into with his steely blue eyes and subtle hand gestures. The book covers Don Pepes success as a sisal farmer building a substantial landholding from a small loan at La Lucha, his frustration with the inequities of government, his exile in El Salvador and Mexico (does anyone know if a recording of his fateful radio broadcast was ever made?), the revolution of 1948 from the perspective of a fleeing wife and two very young children in the mountains above Cartago. The families time at a Norte American construction camp on the Cerro de la Muerte. They were building a road to access the Panama canal from the US in case of blockades of either coast during the Second World war). The book is full of interesting perspective on a lot of what is modern Costa Rica. It is also an excellent tale of the frustrations of a new gringa in Costa Rica in the 1940's. And yes, Don Pepe was responsible for school lunches.
As Henrietta said in 1992, "I believe that each of us has a right to two countries: the one where we were born, and the other which we freely choose. As this book will explain, 'the other' for me will always be Costa Rica.
"The Costa Ricans" by Biesanz, Biesanz & Biesanz.
Read all the books you want about Costa Rica and you still won't find the insights that this excellent book will yield to interested persons. "Costa Ricans are different" as nobody will disagree - if you have an interest in why, you must get this book.
It covers the land and people, community (a fascinating inside view), class and race, education and a great deal more. There is a detailed bibliography that will interest serious readers. Written in the early 1980's the book could do with an update but in it's current condition is readable, enlightening and a very valuable addition to the gringo's bookshelf in Costa Rica. Janet, a knowledgeable long term resident, notes "I like the Spanish version of Mavis book better than 'The Ticos'. "
"The Costa Rica Reader" by Marc Edelman and Joanne Kene
This is the fourth of the 3 best books to read before coming to Costa Rica (I can do that, this book is so good). After a recent reading it became clear to me that this book deserved elevation to one of the "great books of insights" into what makes Costa Rica and Costa Ricans tick the way it and they do. If you want history and evolution you will find it here.
A most interesting compendium of articles and essays by numerous contributors from the colonial period leading up to the Iran Contra Affair and the Arias peace plan. Did you know about the "parallel state" affair or the origin of the DNA that originally attracted those original settlers seeking "neither glory nor riches . . ."?
Great first hand accounts.