WITH her husband President AbelPacheco at her side, First Lady LeilaRodríguez sliced ribbons inaugurating arestored cultural center in Puerto Viejo anda new meteorological station inManzanillo, two neighboring towns on thesouthern Caribbean coast, May 27.The two projects were touted asaccomplishments of the First Lady’s program“Así Somos” (This Is Who We Are), acampaign begun in 2004 to preserve“Costa Rican customs and values,” accordingto a statement released by her office.The cultural center, which was onceLiberty Hall, the local headquarters for theUniversal Negro Improvement Association(UNIA), received a brand-new paint joband structural repairs. In Manzanillo, thegovernment installed a meteorological stationthat will record weather data andtransmit it directly to the NationalMeteorological Institute (IMN) – the thirdsuch station in the country.IN addition to the two inaugurations,Rodríguez’s office has installed 74 streetsigns and 50 trashcans in the area paintedwith the First Lady’s insignia, all intendedto beautify and increase tourism in theregion. The restoration of the cultural center,the street signs and the trashcans wereall made possible thanks to $10,570 infunding from Banco de Costa Rica, whichrecently opened a branch in Puerto Viejo(TT, Jan. 28). The meteorological stationwas built with a $9,000 donation from theGerman government.The cultural center was the first of thetwo buildings to be inaugurated, withRodríguez snipping a blue, white and redribbon at the top of the stairs leading ontothe brightly painted wooden house.The small crowd, composed mostly ofthe press, dignitaries and members of thepresidential entourage, filed into the newcultural center for official ceremonies, the highlight of which was a performance bylocal dance group Olaba. The group ofgirls, made up almost entirely of childrenand teens from the surrounding communities,performed a piece entitled “OcéanoLimpio” (Clean Ocean) to open the event,and “El Último Árbol” (The Last Tree) toclose it.IN addition to the President and theFirst Lady, Allan Flores, vice-minister ofenvironment and energy, Manuel León,president of the Puerto Viejo IntegralDevelopment Association, and EdwinPatterson, legislator for the Citizen ActionParty, attended the event.Patterson was the final speaker in thebrief ceremony, and related the importanceof the center, not just for the community,but also for him personally.“My father was the last president ofLiberty Hall in Puerto Viejo. It’s very personal,”Patterson said. “For me, and thecommunity, it is an example of whatMarcus Garvey (founder of UNIA) did,and what we continue to do, not only forPuerto Viejo, but for all the cultures ofTalamanca. That is what’s beautiful aboutthe cultural center – it is not exclusive. It isan inclusive center.”The center will play host to differentcultural events, such as dance performancesand presentations by the nearbyBribrí indigenous community. It is alsoserving as the local high school until thecommunity has funds to build the studentstheir own school.LATER that afternoon, the First Ladyagain wielded the pair of ornate silver scissorsagainst a patriotic ribbon in the inaugurationof the meteorological station inManzanillo, south of Puerto Viejo. With arepresentative from the German Embassyat their side, the presidential couple wasshown around the station and informedabout how the data-collecting apparatusworks and how the information is transmittedto the IMN.The station will gather information ontemperature, rain, wind, humidity and solarradiation, and send it to the IMN in SanJosé every 30 minutes.Vice-Minister of Environment Floresexplained how the information collectedby the station will serve many purposes.First, it will allow for accurate forecastsand descriptions of the weather in the area,which will help inform the tourism industryin the region.“But it’s not just a meteorological stationfor tourism. It’s integral,” he said.The station is also equipped to catchthe early signs of natural disasters, Floresexplained. Additionally, it can be of greatbenefit to local agriculture, providing“neighbors from the communities ofPuerto Viejo, Cahuita and Manzanillo witha clear perspective on what the weatherconditions are around the time of harvest.”Weather information from the stationcan also be seen by anyone at IMN’s Website, www.imn.ac.cr.