2020 in Guanacaste, in 10 images

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The year 2020 is the image of two health workers, covered in plastic suits and under the merciless Nicoyan sun, preparing COVID-19 tests on the back of their pickup trucks. This year is also the portrait of Luz and Lucrecia, two craft street vendors who had no other choice but to go out and continue their informal work, while others in the province could stay at home. Or the image of Luis, a truck driver who was stuck with his merchandise, north of Peñas Blancas, amidst the tensions between Costa Rica and Nicaragua to control cross-border flow.

This year deeply challenged Guanacaste and the rest of the country. It did so in different ways and to different degrees: survival, social and family relationships, culture, mental health and patience for Guanacasteans. The virus came and intertwined with issues and worries that were already gnawing at people across the country, thus aggravating the situation. 

These photographs, captured throughout the year 2020 by La Voz de Guanacaste, portray these precise challenges, as well as the will to resist. These 10 images, curated by our photojournalist Cesar Arroyo, describe the year we will never forget and that will still resonate with us in 2021.

18/02/20. Peñas Blancas, La Cruz. Many illegal border crossing points between Costa Rica and Nicaragua start in the backyards of homes in border towns like La Cruz, Guanacaste. Hundreds of migrants cross every year from Costa Rica to Nicaragua through “the alley”: a road that separates both countries through barbed wire. Photo: Cesar ArroyoPhoto: César Arroyo

18/02/20. La Cruz, Guanacaste. Ana Yansy Lopez, aka. ‘Mama Africa’, is under investigation by the Costa Rica Prosecutor’s Office for leading a migrant trafficking ring. She denies these charges, despite multiple phone calls that the attorney’s office collected in which she allegedly coordinated the entry and exit of tenths of African, Haitian and Cubam migrants. Photo: Cesar ArroyoPhoto: César Arroyo

19/03/20. Tamarindo Beach, Santa Cruz. Luz Jarquin, 35, and Lucrecia Zapata, 47, have been selling crafts and costume jewelry in Tamarindo for the past seven years. “I’m Nicaraguan and I have to send (money) to my family in Nicaragua, so (not leaving home) would be a very difficult situation for us, which in a way we’re already living because there are almost no tourists here. The season was pretty good and now we’re living a very hard situation,” tells Luz. Photo: Mari ArangoPhoto: Mari Arango

11/04/20. Nicoya. The Saint Blas parish has been streaming Mass services through their digital platforms as a way to connect the Catholic community, after the church decided to cancel the activities for Holy Week due to the pandemic. Photo: Cesar ArroyoPhoto: César Arroyo

21/05/20. Peñas Blancas, La Cruz. At the end of May, there was a constant image that prevailed throughout a line of 17 kilometers (10.5 miles), with trucks along the border region of Peñas Blancas: a driver, lying on his hammock. Luis Aguilar was biding his time, like hundreds of his colleagues who waited for days –with little access to water, food and toilets– for the Nicaraguan government to reopen the border. Photo: Cesar ArroyoPhoto: César Arroyo

12/06/20. Santa Cecilia, La Cruz. Delmer Zuñiga was detained in the town of Santa Elena of Santa Cecilia, on a dirt road surrounded by pastures. He affirmed that he lives and works in Costa Rican territory, but he crossed over to Nicaragua to buy a pair of “chinelas” (flip flops) and pick up some avocados that were given to him as a gift. The Costa Rican police gave him a pair of latex gloves and a face mask to avoid a potential infection of COVID-19. Photo: David BolañosPhoto: David Bolaños

24/06/20. Matabuey neighborhood, Nicoya. Two health workers of the Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social (CCSS), the public health system in Costa Rica, spray themselves with disinfectant after taking several test samples in a neighborhood in Nicoya. These teams, tasked with screenings in different towns, use the back of their pickup trucks as their mobile office, where they handle all the supplies for the COVID-19 tests in the canton. Photo: Cesar ArroyoPhoto: César Arroyo

09/07/20. San Martin neighborhood, Nicoya. During a mass screening, Macaria Toruño Espinoza, a 73-year-old resident of the San Martin neighborhood, is being tested for COVID-19 by a team of the Epidemiological Surveillance Unit in Nicoya. “It’s just a tickle, it’s worth the trouble,” she says after being tested. Photo: Cesar ArroyoPhoto: César Arroyo

20/08/20. Sepecue, Talamanca. Nadya Hernandez is a native from the Bribri tribe and lives in Telire, the second district with the highest suicide rate in Talamanca, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC). In 2017, the suicide rate in Talamanca was 25 per 100.000 people, almost four times the national rate of 6.4. En 2018, the suicide rate in Talamanca remained at 25, and it descended to 12 by the year 2019. Still, this most recent annual rate is twice as much as the national statistic. Lorna, Nadya’s sister, took her own life in June. This investigation was part of GuanaData, a project by La Voz de Guanacaste that scrutinizes public budgets and expenses in six municipalities across the country, including Talamanca. Photo: Cesar ArroyoPhoto: César Arroyo

03/09/20. San Martin, Nicoya. Gina Hernandez lives in the San Martin neighborhood in Nicoya. For the last five years, she has lived in the back of her parents’ house, where she built a “rancho” (a shed or shanty), like she calls it. A curtain serves as the door to the only bedroom there. In it, Gina and her two youngest children share a mattress. In Guanacaste, more than half of the homes that suffer overcrowding are led by women. Photo: Cesar ArroyoPhoto: César Arroyo