Adolfo Saenz: The Correspondent Who Bears the Golden Cross

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Between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., he shows up at the Red Cross. He never misses a day. The first thing he does is ask what happened the night before to generate a report to the institution’s press office. That is one of the things he did today, just as he has done for 46 years.


Adolfo Saenz is not just anyone to the Red Cross. On the contrary, he is a man who deserves respect and the institution has made that known. In 2008, he received the highest award given by the Red Cross to its associates: the Golden Cross. In addition to Saenz, only two other Costa Ricans have received this distinction in the entire country.


With pride, he recalls having fought for the construction of the Red Cross in Nicoya, and the Colonial City is so grateful to him for it that the Municipality appointed him as the parade marshal for the Nicoya Shines Festival of Light.

Ariana Crespo -To Adolfo Saenz, the Gold Cross is the most important recognition of his entire career as a volunteer.


From Another Province

He is not from here. Adolfo was born in Cartago on May 15, 1940. But he feels more Guanacastecan since he has lived in Nicoya for more than 30 years, along with his wife, Flori, who is indeed Nicoyan.

He went to high school in his province. He reached the third year in high school and then left school to go to work, which is something he was never afraid of. He worked first at a lumberyard, then in an ice cream factory and in the 60s, he started at the Costa Rican Social Security Fund, where opportunities were opened to him over the years.

“I started working in sanitation for Social Security and then became a nursing assistant, without the title, and then later I became a radiology technician. I climbed the ladder at Social Security until I retired,” Saenz related.

The administration of former President Daniel Oduber was in office, and in 1975, La Anexion Hospital in Nicoya was inaugurated. At that time, Saenz worked as a technician for the hospital of Turrialba. However, he asked for a transfer to move [to Nicoya] with his wife, who he met in San José, oddly, although she is Nicoyan.

They came with their three oldest children, and the youngest was born in Guanacaste. They have now given “Papito Adolfo” the blessing of being the grandfather of four grandsons and seven granddaughters.

Alongside his career with the Social Security Fund, he always had a spark for the thrill of adventure. That is why, on January 1, 1970, he began working as a volunteer at the Red Cross, the place he considers his best school.

“I liked community service. I was a volunteer rescuer, I learned first aid, everything. I was at big floods, at the landslides on the Atlantic side in 1970. I was at an accident of the Nicaraguan Air Force at Turrialba volcano. The thing is, at the Red Cross, the more services you gave, the more you are trained,” commented Saenz, who is currently ranked as captain.

Looking for the Journalistic Photo

In addition to his interest in community work, Saenz had another hobby: photography. He always liked it, so he decided to study by correspondence with the Argentina Modern School. That is how he learned the basics of photography and developing, which he later put into practice in the radiology darkroom.


Ariana Crespo – Correspondent Adolfo Saenz holds up three of his most precious work tools: on the left, a compact digital camera that he uses these days; in his right hand, a mechanical analog camera and hanging around his neck, a 35mm with four lenses.

At 75 years of age, Saenz does not stop. There isn’t a meeting or cultural activity that Aldolfo does not attend with his little pocket sized Canon, shooting photos, not just for pleasure, but because it is also part of his job.

Since February of 1994, he has been a correspondent for the newspaper La Extra, in addition to being the spokesperson for the Nicoya Red Cross and working for the institution’s press department.

“Being a communicator is so important, because society sees you as Mr. Man. Wherever I go, they accommodate me.”

But life for Saenz is not just about taking nice pictures. There are a couple of image negatives that he saves with sadness. For some years, due to the “folly of youth,” alcohol became a vice that trapped him until renal tuberculosis almost cost him his life. At that time, he decided to change and joined the Alcoholics Anonymous program, which has enabled him to not drink or smoke for more than 30 years.

Today his health is like that of a 15-year-old boy, allowing him to walk up and down with a full schedule of commitments.

“Many people retire and stay at home doing nothing, vegetating. That is where the problems come from. I retired and grabbed my little camera and at 8:30 I go and I’m all over the place. Something always comes up. Journalism is in the streets.”

For now, Saenz is concerned with getting his official Red Cross suit ready so that he impresses in his best clothes in the 2015 Nicoya Shines Festival, in which he will be one of the figures portrayed in a journalistic photo for posterity.