On the 25th of July, there were no fiestas, shouts or large gatherings for activities in Nicoya. The still-persistent COVID-19 health crisis prevented it. Instead, with an air of farewell and with no more promises to make to the people of Guanacaste, President Carlos Alvarado spent his last Annexation Day as president at a discreet event without much public presence.
Together with First Lady Claudia Dobles, the president began his schedule at around 8 a.m., carrying a wreath to the Annexation Monument at the Liceo (high school) of Nicoya. He wore a white guayabera shirt, which revealed the sweltering heat in the province.
The act at the monument was done to quietly honor the Guanacastecans who, 197 years ago, fought to annex their territories to Costa Rica. But in the distance, for a small group of no more than a dozen protesters calling for the president’s resignation, silence was the least of their concerns.
This group would also follow him to his second activity, within the now-restored Colonial Church of San Blas. There, he participated in an extraordinary session of the Municipal Council without a general public, together with some ministers and mayors of Guanacaste. Unlike years past, Alvarado didn’t make any comment about his opposers.
The president arrived in Nicoya two days after interrupting his tour of Guanacaste to attend to the national emergency due to floods in the Atlantic region of the country. Amid shouting, traveling, giving explanations and decision-making, Alvarado seemed drained as he listened to speeches by the president of the Municipal Council, Martin Reyes, and the mayor of Nicoya, Carlos Armando Martinez.
It’s the second Annexation celebration for the Nicoyan officials since their rising political party, Gran Nicoya, broke the monopoly of the green and white Liberationist party in the canton.
Also dressed in white and with floral accessories on their local traditional clothes, both mentioned strengthening education and cultural projects in the province, in relation to the presence of the Minister of Culture, Sylvie Duran, and the Minister of Education, Guiselle Cruz.
In his speech, the Nicoyan mayor also demanded from the government more forceful actions against the climate change that threatens Guanacaste, the creation of jobs, the problems with water in Guanacaste and the need to name the districts of Lepanto, Cobano and Paquera as territories belonging to that region.
May this celebration serve as a starting point for those conversations that we need for Guanacaste,” Martinez stated.
A Farewell Speech
An hour after the solemn act began, it was the president’s turn to address the Guanacastecans who were watching him through social media platforms. This time, since it was his last involvement in the province, Alvarado didn’t bring promises or new projects. Instead, he focused on highlighting his administration’s achievements and the need for the next administration to continue working for the province.
He began with a low tone of voice, far from memories of 2019, reaffirming his solidarity with all those affected by the last rains in the country and praising the interventions done by Guanacaste’s leaders.
In his speech, Alvarado insisted on the “legacy” that he’s trying to leave the country.
If the legacy of our ancestors was to see ourselves down the road, we need to live up to that. Not only thinking about the year 2021, but also thinking about the year 2050 or beyond,” he stated.
The location of his speech gives full circle to his term in office. Three years ago, at the 2018 celebration, the president also spoke about the legacy of Guanacaste in Costa Rica. That’s why on that occasion, he promised to finish repairing the colonial temple that he was standing in this time.
Within minutes, Alvarado thanked his wife, Claudia Dobles, for her office’s help in some projects in the province.
I know that without her help, coordinating, some things (works in the province) would not have happened. Her sacrifices have results, sacrifices for this province,” said the president
Dobles not only helped with some projects, but she has been the coordinator of the Chorotega Region since April 2019. The first lady is the mind behind works such as the pavement of Route 160 between Garza and Nosara, the new well in Marbella, the new EBAIS clinics in Santa Cruz and Liberia, the renovation of the Nosara dike, the extension of the Cañas-Tilaran route and the improvement of aqueducts in at least four cantons.
A Journey Through the Promises in Guanacaste
Alvarado mentioned the projects, referring to them as achievements of his administration. Most of these focused on water, infrastructure, health, employment and education. To him, they are aspects that his government and the next should give priority to. They are the same topics that he has spoken about in each of his speeches in Guanacaste during his nearly four years in power.
In 2018, his first Annexation Day as president, he promised to build the new health area of Santa Cruz, which he traveled to inaugurate three years later just after his speech in the colonial canton. He also spoke about the expansion and rehabilitation of 20.1 kilometers (12.5 miles) of road between Cañas and Limonal, which is currently under construction.
That same year, the president affirmed that he had approval from the Costa Rican Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (AyA- Acueductos y Alcantarillados) and the College of Engineers to get the ball rolling on the Don Mario residential housing project — a private project that the government was supporting to provide housing for 254 Nicoyan families.
However, in 2019, the National Environmental Technical Secretariat (SETENA- Secretaría Técnica Nacional Ambiental) halted planning to date due to lack of environmental viability. Two years later, there is no new news on the matter.
A year after the first speech and before the booing, in 2019, Carlos Alvarado promised to train at least 2,000 Guanacastecans in English and thus create more jobs in the province. Although the promise is underway at this time, the project didn’t begin until the beginning of 2021 through the National Learning Institute (INA), this time with the goal of training 3,000 people from the Chorotega region during this and next year.
In 2020, during the pandemic, the president affirmed that his government would make every effort to continue with the Paacume project, which proposes to supply water to the entire province. The plan currently remains in the planning phase.
“The region that will make the leap to well-being is Guanacaste”
In the 2021 speech, months away from the end of his term, Carlos Alvarado said that he sees Guanacaste as the province that will move Costa Rica forward. He quoted the Annexation anthem and recounted the history of Guanacaste and Costa Rica.
Increasing his tone of voice, which he kept low and calm throughout the speech, he said, “The region that will make the leap to human development and well-being and that will stand out above the others is Guanacaste. A promising future that requires our work day after day.”
Our job is to strengthen the job so that this development impacts Guanacastecan men and women in the areas of education, heritage, environmental sustainability, digital literacy… so that [Guanacaste] is even more prosperous,” he added.
The president concluded his words by comparing his government’s decisions on vaccination and climate change with the Annexation and social guarantees. “As for what’s very Costa Rican, we have to take exceptional measures in the past and now,” he said.
In closing, he highlighted his intention to ban oil exploitation in the country, before the end of his presidential term.
At the end of the speech, the Municipality gave a recognition to the presidential couple and one especially to Claudia Dobles for her work in the region. The session, much shorter than usual before the pandemic, ended at around 11:50.
In July of 1825, under the sun in the lowland and around the verdant topography, an event occurred that changed the course of history. After an open town hall session, the leaders of the Nicoya Party signed the annexation of their territory to the Republic of Costa Rica.
Since then, every 25th of July, the people of Guanacaste celebrate with dances, songs and bombas (traditional rhyming limericks with a punchline), an event that brought an immense cultural and traditional background, still permeating deep in the country’s veins.
Now 197 years later, the heirs of the decision that they made of their own free leave after celebrating the visionary turn in history with the republic’s 48th president.
Guanacastecan shouts and bombas can be heard in the distance inside the houses, while the president and his team leave for Santa Cruz to inaugurate an EBAIS that they have been working on for three years. Thus ends his red and yellow legacy in Guanacaste too.