Marco Tulio Gardela, The Maestro of Guanacasteness

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Guanacastequidad, or Guanacasteness, is the essence of being from Guanacaste. The creator of the concept, the professor and philologist Marco Tulio Gardela Ramirez, is not Guanacastecan by birth, but by choice.

Although he was born in Quepos. Puntarenas, 66 years ago, he’s lived in Liberia for the last 40 years. There he married a local teacher, Marcelina Mendoza.

Gardela was a Spanish teacher at the Colegio Técnico Agropecuario de Liberia, worked as a pedagogic adviser at the Regional Teaching Direction in Liberia, founded the Guanacaste Literary Center in 1974, and has written dozens of books, poems in the Chorotega language, and even dictionaries.

At his home, in Barrio La Cruz de Liberia, he has a library full of books. This is his place for thinking, working, and spending free time. He also stores a dozen sabanero-style hats and has a collection of wooden figures of nude countrywomen.

With a teacher’s warm voice he says that he’s retired but not idle. He’s the president/founder of the Guanacaste Literary Center and is an educational adviser in Vivamos Guanacastequidad (Let’s Live Our Guanacasteness), a program he created in 1989.

The program is his greatest achievement, he says. Within the program Guanacastecan culture and traditions are contextualized and taught in schools throughout the province.

“The word ‘Guanacasteness’ is comprised of two elements: the adjective Guanacastecans and the suffix “ness” which means the quality of being. In other words, the quality of being Guanacastecan,” he said excitedly.

That’s why Gardela believes that Guanacasteness can be passed on and strengthened in schools.

His idea became a reality on April 7th, 2006, when the program was officially recognized in the Diario Oficial La Gaceta. Since then, it’s been part of the required curriculum at schools in the province.

The Qualities of a Guanacastecan

The Chorotega culture is one of Mario Tuio Gardela’s greatest passions. Among his extensive collection of books is a Chorotega/Spanish dictionary (by Santiago Quiros) that he learned. He even writes poems in the indigenous language.

His love of Guanacaste, the letters, and the potential he saw in some students at the Colegio Técnico Agropecuario de Liberia and the Guanacaste Institute inspired him to found the Centro Literario de Guanacaste in 1974. This latter organization aims to bring local authors together and promote their works.

Since then, hundreds of members have received national and international recognition. Renowned writers like Rofolfo “Fito” Salazar, Medardo Gido, Ofelia Gambio and Miguel Farjado have been part of this center.

“The literary center’s greatest achievement is having made an organization that has withstood time,” said Gardela.

A Puntarenasian Who Wants To Take The Peninsula Back

One of his causes is the desire to recover land on the Nicoya Peninsula for Guanacaste near Cóbano, Lepanto, and Paquera. These towns currently sit within Puntanrenas’s boundaries. What is a Puntarenasian doing defending land for Guanacaste?

For him, it’s historic justice. “The southern tip of the peninsula is one-hundred percent Guanacastecan. What (ex-president) Alfredo González Flores did is illegal,” he alleges and adds, “But it’s not lost.”

Marco Tulio Gardela is proud of his decision: “I always say that my cédula starts with five.”