“We want this park to belong to us and not to thieves,” assures a convinced Patricia Ruiz Cambronero, leader of the neighborhood group Present and Future in San Martín de Nicoya.
Patricia grew up in this community and collaborates with 70 others who want to return the Los Mangos Park to the children in the town, the most populated in the canton.
The battle to reclaim ownership of this public space, which is property of the City of Nicoya, officially began three months ago, Ruiz said. Since then, residents have been holding activities such as sport games, puppet workshops and painting classes in order to integrate the community.
But at night the low lighting attracts drug pushers and consumers, says Omar Chavarría, head Nicoya Police Omar Chavarría.
It’s very easy from inside the park to see if a squad car is coming, and from the outside it’s hard to tell if someone is doing something illegal,” he explains.
The criminal underbelly doesn’t only affect San Martín. According to data from the Judicial Investigation Police, of the 60 districts in the province of Guanacaste, the district of Nicoya had the fourth highest number of crimes between January 1 and July 25 of this year. Of the 11 capitals in the province, the colonial city is in first place, with 151 crimes per 10,000 residents.
In order to fight this nighttime problem, the residents are also preparing to show movies and orgainze “cinema in the neighborhood” starting in August.
“Security isn’t going to be provided by bars or nets. Residents need to see public spaces as their own,” explains architect Mario Villalta, coordinator of a group in San Jose that has taken back public spaces in the capital city with traditional games, activities and recreation.
Park Needs Resources
Residents who live near Los Mangos are not content with just the activities and want to turn it into a meeting point for neighbors. On July 9, the presented a proposal to town representatives to build an amphitheater, a skating rink and a fairgrounds.
This project costs around ¢200 million ($354,000). For now, Mayor Adriana Rodríguez says that there is no budget for it, but that next year the city will improve infrastructure at the park.
The mayor said that the city provides maintenance for the park every month, picking weeds and cleaning up trash.