Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
I had sent my city clothes ahead from Panama, so I was able to disguise myself as a 'gen-
tleman' again and thus do the rounds, paying my respects and seeing the sights. San Jose has
very little to offer in this line, for besides the small but tasty National Theatre, more or less
the Paris Opera on a small scale, and, maybe, the Chapuy Asylum, there is nothing much to
be seen in this city. The asylum is surrounded by beautiful parks, but as it is exclusively for
lunatics I did not venture inside. Leather articles are a speciality of this town, and these are of
excellent quality and workmanship.
Thanks to the considerable elevation, the climate is cool and agreeable, but during the wet
season it rains practically every afternoon.
Railroad lines connect the town with ports Limon on the Atlantic side and Puntarenas on
the Pacific.
The sight of San Jose that no visitor ought to miss is the evening promenade of the élite
in the principal plaza. This seems to be the chief delight of both sexes, young and old. I had
seen similar evening parades before, but the promenaders of San Jose obey an all-important
unwritten law. The bandstand is in the middle of the plaza and around it, as though along the
greeting the señoritas as they pass them again and again, round after round. Only married or
engaged men, when in company of their chosen are allowed to walk in the 'ladies' direction'.
One evening, when I happened to be free and alone, I went to have a look at this fashion
ing in this plaza. Contrary to my expectations the majority were fair and wore their dresses
with the 'chic' of Parisiennes. When I saw an open gap among the people I took advantage to
take a walk around with the crowd. I was smoking a cigar and admiring the shapely ankles of
a girl who walked in front of me, and I must have promenaded round the plaza two or three
times when some friends of mine beckoned to me.
I had noticed that the people were all staring at me and first I thought there must be
something wrong with my clothes. Finally I came to the conclusion that they must have re-
cognised me, and so took no more notice of them, but now my friends pointed out to me that I
had been walking in the 'ladies' direction', and explained this ancient and accepted custom of
the town to me. Even today I tremble when I think how near some horrible death I must have
been when I innocently broke the great, unwritten law of San Jose de Costa Rica!
Alongside the main plaza is another paved square, where the 'second class' people, as
they call them, have their separate parade, which is carried out strictly under the same rule as
amongthe'firstclass'.Iobservedthatthedifference ofthetwoclasses ischiefly inthecolour
of the alta sociedad who proudly float around in 'first', although a few of them looked rather
whiter than they really were, thanks to the 'poudre de riz' which they had liberally applied as
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