A Historical Tour
One of the program offered classes is Historia Social de Costa Rica. A class that has taken us from before the Mayans to the end of the twentieth century. Up until the last week of classes though, all of that had been through lectures and an in class movie or two.
We used a weekend and went on a one day bus adventure to see some of that history in the flesh. Or in this case, the stone. The stone foundations an indigenous village. The stone walls of the two oldest churches in Costa Rica, built by some of the first Spaniards to settle in her jungles. The stone that makes up the La Negrita.
We met up at the bus in front of the University. The 11 of us in the class and our professor, Carlos, at the unholy hour of 6. Our first stop was Cartago and La Basilica de la Virgen de Los Angeles. Of course we were making this journey on a Sunday, this Catholic church still holds services. Even better it was First Communion day. We got to see a huge part of the Catholic culture of Costa Rica but it was a little awkward as tourist types.
While there we were able to see La Negrita the stone idol found where the church was built and the physical representation of the patron saint of Costa Rica. The Romeria or pilgrimage I went on in August was to this church for the day dedicated to la Virgen de Los Angeles.
Our next stop was Guayabo National Monument which puts you in mind more of a national park. Carlos described it as the Machu Pichu of Costa Rica. There lay the partially explored and uncovered remains of an indigenous cacicazgo. It is believed to be the main village of a larger controlled area where the cacique or chief lived.
All that remains are the stone foundations of the huts. There is also a still functional aqueduct system believed to be one of the oldest in the world. Leading out of the village is a cobblestone paved road. Only the first kilometer has been cleared but it is known to extend for at least 15 kilometers, about 10 miles.
Then it was back on the buses to head to the valleys containing the two oldest churches in Costa Rica. One is no longer a church, the town and church were destroyed by floods in the early days of colonization, the Spaniards abandoned the area, it is the rainiest in Costa Rica and also receives all the water from the rainiest mountain in Costa Rica. The ruins are now a town park.
The early Spaniards also built a church in the next valley over. It is the oldest church in Costa Rica that still holds services. There are paintings one the walls that are at least two hundred years old and were brought from Guatemala.
It was a long trip, with far too many hours on a bus. It was also an incredible opportunity to see some of the history of Costa Rica that your average tourist would never see. Guayabo and the old churches were amazing and even with the bus time I would recommend them to visitors to Costa Rica.