National Geographic : 1965 Jul
the volcano was a whisper of its former self emitting only small puffs of steam. There was still dust in the air, but it came from ditch digging for an automatic telephone system for the Central Plateau. The work is being rushed to completion. By 1967 the $11,500,000 com munications net will cover the country. Volcanic Disaster Brings Blessings, Too The volcano was still worrying people, however. Had it really stopped? Francisco Jose Orlich, the President of Costa Rica, told me, "We must wait and see. The eruption has been disastrous to our econ omy. It has cost the republic 200,000,000 colones." That amount, equivalent to about $30,000,000, represents more than 6 percent of the annual gross national product. Some knowledgeable men, however, see benefits in addition to enrichment of the soil. They contend that Irazu brought Costa Rica to the world's attention at a critical time. Mil lions of dollars in aid, chiefly from the United States, have poured into the country. While the eruption of Irazu was a private catastrophe for many, the country as a whole prospered as the ash fell. An increase in world coffee prices reduced the nation's overall loss es for that crop. And Costa Rica's economy is booming under the stimulation of the new Central American Common Market. "With the common market, which has re moved tariffs from 90 percent of all goods, our market has increased from 1,400,000 consum ers, Costa Rica's population, to 12,000,000, the population of the five participating na tions," said Rodolfo Silva, director of Presi dent Orlich's Office of Planning. Member states are Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guate mala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. I revisited the volcano and was amazed to see how rapidly nature is repairing the rav ages of Irazu. The fields of ceniza were yield ing to the tough kikuyu range grass originally brought here from Africa. On the slopes of the mountain, ox-drawn plows furrowed the land, and fields of potatoes, peas, and onions burgeoned in the sun. In Cartago, 14 miles southeast of the capi tal, I saw a massive by-product of the erup tions. Lt. (jg) Hans Zassenhaus of a United States Navy Construction Battalion explained that he and a crew of 32 Seabees, plus heavy equipment, had been flown in from Davis ville, Rhode Island, in May of 1964 to save Cartago from a flood of mud. "When the volcano's explosions loosened the soil and destroyed ground cover, the run off into the Reventado River, on Irazi's flank, promptly doubled," the lieutenant told me. "Every time we had a heavy rain, there were tremendous landslides and heavy mud flow. We've had 30 floods since we arrived." Lieutenant Zassenhaus and. his men have moved 741,000 Incense perfumes the spring air as the Procession of the Nazarene winds through San Jose on Good Friday. Priest and acolytes lead with a statue of Christ crowned with a halo and carrying His cross. Benediction opens the Carnival of the Flowers in Desamparados, near the capital. President Orlich and his wife kneel at right. Each embassy in Costa Rica sets up a shop at the an nual gala, with proceeds going to a children's hospital. The United States delegation sold toys in "Uncle Sam's Toy Shop" (upper right). A different community plays host to the carnival each year. EKTACHROME(LEFT) BY JOSEPHJ. SCHERSCHELAND KODACHROMEBY FRED WARD,BLACKSTAR© N.G.S.