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Exploring Costa Rican History Through Art

The Juan Santamaría Historical Cultural Museum (MHCJS) is set to unveil a temporary exhibition titled “Transit Campaign Diaries: Illustrations of Memory”. This exhibition brings to life the events of the renowned “Campaña de Tránsito” from 1856-1857, showcasing a collection of artistic works by Carlos Aguilar Durán, a noted visual artist from Alajuela.

The MHCJS has amassed significant documentation regarding this period of war, collected by various researchers and institutions. Of these documents, the “Transit Campaign Diaries” holds a special place, with the diary of Major Máximo Blanco—meticulously curated by historian Werner Korte Núñez between 1990 and 2000—being a highlight.

The public can view this illustrated exhibition during MHCJS’s regular hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The displays are housed in the newly inaugurated Juan Alfaro Ruiz Room (1810-1856) situated on the second floor of the Antiguo Cuartel de Alajuela building.

The showcased artworks are properties of both the Municipality of Alajuela and MHCJS. The exhibition serves as a platform to highlight the combined art collections of these institutions, created by a local artist renowned for his in-depth research on the War of 1856-1857—a war that still echoes in the memories of Costa Ricans.

“The aim of this exhibition is to weave a visual narrative complementing the written accounts of Máximo Blanco and other authors connected to the famous Transit Campaign,” shared Adrián Chaves, the museum’s resident historian and educator.

Though these works were recently published by the Editorial de la UNED, they remain relatively unknown to the general populace. Hence, the MHCJS aspires to enhance the visibility of this critical historical resource, enriched by illustrations crafted by Carlos Aguilar Durán between 2006 and 2013.

“Moreover, our goal is to establish the Juan Alfaro Ruiz Hall within MHCJS as a prime venue for temporary exhibitions, spotlighting either the museum’s own collection or those of other public bodies. The focus will be topics associated with the historical events of the National Campaign of 1856-1857 and its lasting memories,” Chaves further elucidated.

The Filibuster War (Campaña Nacional 1856-1857)

This period is among the most researched and propagated by national educational entities. However, recollections of this era predominantly concentrate on events like the Combat of Santa Rosa (March 20, 1856) and the Battle of Rivas (April 11, 1856). There’s limited awareness about the war’s subsequent phases, particularly the “Transit Campaign” that, from a Costa Rican perspective, transpired between December 1856 and January 1857.

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