National Geographic : 1965 Jul
Hard-riding sabanero, or herdsman of the plains, drives Brahman cattle in (uanacaste Province. Nicara gua. Costa Rica's northern neighbor, once owned this Texaslike land of ranches and cowboys. Next morning I set out for Guanacaste Prov ince-Costa Rica's "Wild West"-where cat tle thrive. Guanacaste also supplies the republic with rice, beans, and cotton, and is famed for its wild game-deer, paca, tapir, jaguar-and its water birds. My good friend Mauro FernAndez, assistant manager of the Gran Hotel Costa Rica, trav eled with me. We drove from San Jose through drowsy Santo Domingo in Heredia Province, a town of adobe houses and slow traffic, dom inated by an ocher-colored church. This is old Costa Rica. We watched the village milk man go from door to door, ladling milk from six cans hung from the back of his horse. In Alajuela we went in search of the town's famous orchid tree, but paused on the way at the dramatic statue of Juan Santamaria, Costa 150 Sunset Gold Frames a Gamboling Dog on the Dark Sands of Puntarenas Rica's only war hero. Mauro knew the story: "In 1856 William Walker, the filibuster from the United States, invaded Costa Rica. He was defeated in the battle of Santa Rosa and retreated to Rivas in Nicaragua. When Santamaria set fire to Walker's fortified house there, Santamaria himself died in the flames." What happened to Walker? A Southerner in quest of new realms for slavery, he orga nized more expeditions to Central America. But on his third trip he was captured in Hon duras and executed by a firing squad. We found the orchid tree in a pasture near the slaughterhouse. It is a venerable samdn -the West Indies' rain tree. Thousands of orchids-all guaria morada (Cattleya skin neri), Costa Rica's national flower-made the old tree a colorful bower (page 148).