San Jose




Cristina tells the story of a typical rural family moving to old San Jose - “We left Montezuma because I was unwell as a little girl. I’ve got too many veins. You can see them in my hands. I swelled up in the heat and itched and was always tired. The doctor said that so many veins were preventing the blood from reaching my brain and unless we moved to a cooler climate I wouldn’t survive. The village was all I knew. We always went to sleep when the monkeys passed on their way down the mountain – monos congos would howl at us and carablancas would go past one by one. “Adios,” we yelled.



“Papa caught a big cicada and tied it with string to the bed so that we’d be sure to wake up when it started singing about 4 or 5 in the morning. “Me and my big brother and sister were excited about seeing San Jose for the first time but we were also sad because we had to leave our dog Rinso behind with Grandfather. We never realised that Rinso was a brand of soap until later in San Jose (Mama used seeds and washed in the river). I was also sad because I had to sell my pet parrot. It was my best friend and he could talk better than any parrot I’ve ever heard but I had to sell him because I couldn’t arrive in San Jose without shoes.

“I sold el lorito to an old man in the village for 7 colones and even at that I thought I was rich. I bought a tin of condensed milk and made myself sick. I had never worn shoes in my life and I was really proud of my bright red sandals when we left our house. “I stumbled along for three miles to El Cruce, where we caught the bus, but by the time we got to the ferry terminal I was already carrying my new shoes. We said good-bye to Rinso when we got on the ferry and granddad held onto him until we had gone. We could hear him whining and barking over the noise of the boat’s engines.

“When we got to San Jose we went to stay with my mother’s sister and I could see that my cousin really liked the shoes I was carrying so I gave them to her. I didn’t want them but all I could think was that now I’d sold my friend for nothing! “Papa found some work with my uncle and it seemed that the doctor was right because I very quickly got better. I put on weight and stopped itching. I even tried to wear shoes again and now years later, I don’t know why, but it’s almost an obsession. Whenever I get a pay packet from my reception job I just have to go and buy another pair of shoes.


“We heard that Rinso missed us terribly. Grandfather said that he wouldn’t eat and he went every day at exactly the right time to meet the ferry. One day he didn’t come back and Grandfather went to look for him. “Rinso was just a bag of bones by that time and died halfway between the village and the ferry terminal.”