A Trip through Costa Rican History & back

The members of the Atenas Men’s Club, that’s Atenas, Costa Rica, mind you, invited their significant others for an excursion to the MUSEO DEL JADE y de la Cultura Precolombina Marco Fidel Tristán Castro, which is a government owned museum in San José under the administration of INS, the National Institute of Insurance. It is named after the late INS chairman, who was instrumental in creating this unique collection of national heritage.

Since we’re pensionados, retired fuddy-duddies as it were, a little dinged here and there, a bus was hired for the occasion to take our group in comfort to the museum. We assembled at the pretty Atenas’ parque central, climbed into our carriage and leaned back to enjoy the ride, grateful someone else had to negotiating the traffic.

Time passed quickly and we soon reached the city.

Our daughter-in-law is Taiwanese, so I thought, I throw this picture in the mix. ¡Hola, Lei-Lei!

I few turns further on, passing some city animals here and there, we reached our destination.
The brand new museum, which opened in May 2014, is a 5-story, stone clad building. Its shape resembles a monolith of uncut jade, cleaved in two to let natural light flood the central space. Young Costa Rica architect Don Diego van der Laat designed this gem. In the lobby we were greeted by a mural titled ‘La Vida Precolombina’ by iconic Costa Rican artist Don César Valverde Vega, who held dual degrees in Law and Fine Arts, working as a lawyer for the government and as an independent artist & art professor as well. Quite apropos of van der Laat, who had also studied law.

As Cuidadanos de Oro, golden citizens, the charming local term for geezers, we were admitted free of charge to six salas, rooms, filled with amazing, beautiful, educational and mesmerizing treasures. 

But before we enter these exciting spaces, a quick detour to the baño, where one has another apropos moment, as in: never mind the polished splendor of the ladies’ room, you’re still in CR!

[Re the following pics, please keep in mind that dim lighting, glass cases, spot lights, a point-&-shoot with tired sensors (kind of like its owner) and the no-flash rule result in grainy & hard to read images]
UMBRAL – sala 1 
In the first room you step over the threshold (el umbral) into the mystery called jade.


EL JADE – sala 2
In the second room the many uses of jade are demonstrated and we learned how the artisans worked the stones.

This sala also detailed many other aspects of daily life, traditions and customs. Around a tableau of a pre-Columbian family with multiple generations, I noticed panels with greetings in five different indigenous languages. I couldn’t help thinking of the price paid for such gentle hospitality extended to European conquerors. ‘How beautiful your coming’ indeed. 

On the next floor up we experienced the brilliant juxtaposition of two exhibition spaces, ‘El Día’ versus ‘La Noche’.

El Día – sala 3

Entering this light filled space, saturated with iridescent color blows your mind! You are surrounded by the story of human interaction with the natural resources of Costa Rica, flora, fauna, metals and of course, jade.

The ceramics collection displayed in the rear of sala 3 was equally gorgeous.


And one more little cutie pie, before we move over to the dark side. 

La Noche – sala 4

Wars, burial rites, cultural expressions of belief systems, the underworld – Fear & Darkness … the faces of the night …

And always the Jaguar

The illuminated floor was just as incredible on the dark side, as it was across the hall en el día.

La Memoria ancestral – sala 5
The importance of the archaeological sciences teaching us about human diversity, the development of technologies, traditions and customs, to explore the role of generations, families, gender and sexuality. 

This poster explaining the matrilineal pre-Columbian traditions was right next to a diorama depicting the funeral tradition of burying slaves and assorted females with ranking male leaders. Ah well. Let’s look at some gold, another grave ‘gift’, as it too was buried with tribal leaders. 

And kokopelli was here, too!

Acopio visitable – sala 6
Lastly we visited the collection on the 5th floor, where additional artifacts are archived. These objects made of jade, clay, stone, gold, bone, shell and wood, are grouped according to their origin within the three major archaeological regions in Costa Rica:
-Región arqueológica Gran Nicoya
-Región arqueológica Central
-Región arqueológica Gran Chiriquí 

The top floor concluded our visit of this outstanding museum – and not a minute to early for our aching joints! We quickly grabbed a cab to the Don Wang restaurant for a leisurely dim sum lunch. Unfortunately in our hasty departure we lost the rest of our group, who all ate together in the neighboring Tin Jo Chinese restaurant. We did manage to reconnect for our rainy bus ride back to Atenas, all of us satiated with beautiful images for the mind and delicious nourishment for the body.

A great excursion, a wonderful experience! Many thanks to all the organizers of this outing, above all to our kind shepherds Rose Mary and Tony Phillips.  

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