Costa Rica Coffee Guide

Monteverde Book to Restore Peace

October 21, 2005

ON Tuesday, March 8, at 3:20 p.m., the unthinkable happened in Santa Elena de Monteverde, a small, intimate community dedicated to peace and conservation in the remote north-central region of the country. Three heavily armed men attempted an assault on the community’s Banco Nacional branch (TT, March 11).Security guards at the entrance opened fire and killed two of the would-be robbers. The third made his way into the building and took control of it, with 31 bank employees and clients as hostages.Twenty-eight hours later, Yerlin Hurtado ended the siege, giving himself up after Elizabeth Artavia, one of the hostages, talked him into it. Six residents, one police officer and two desperate criminals had been killed, and a community was grief stricken over the sudden and violent deaths of people they knew.After the numbness, the shock, the indignation and the first funerals at the church, notes began to appear on the front wall of the parish house. Soon it was covered with messages of condolence, poems, love notes, get-well cards for the injured and drawings.It was a public outpouring of the community’s grief. There were simple messages with misspelled words and e-mails in English. There were notes of sympathy and love, to those who died and to those who survived. Some letters were in solidarity with the whole community. Others decried violence. They were written in pen, crayon, magic markers and on typewriters.THREE members of the Monteverde community, Patricia Ortiz, Jenny Peña and Giselle Rodríguez, along with photographer Michael García, compiled the messages and rawings from the “wall of expression” into a photo album entitled “La Paz Interrumpida” (“Interrupted Peace”), and dedicated it to those involved and the deeply bereft community. It is a sensitive, thoughtful way of remembering and healing, for all who cared.The book includes a chronology of the events of that tragic day, as well as reflections on peace and alternatives to violence.Photos show the various messages that were posted on the wall. Others show friends, neighbors and visitors reading, writing and reflecting over the words. The book is in Spanish, but the pictures speak far more than words about the anguish and hope in Monteverde. The book costs ¢1,500 ($3.10) and is available at Chunches and La Esperanza stores, or by contacting Giselle Rodríguez at the Monteverde Conservation League at 645-5003 or gisrodroguez@acmcr.org.

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