17 October 2017:
Puerto Limon, Costa Rica:
The Atlantic Side of the Rich Coast

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Buenos dias.

¿Cómo vas?

¿Pura vida?

Muy bien, gracias a Dios.

There’s your basic meet-and-greet for Ticos, also known as Costa Ricans.

Good day.

How are things going?

Pura vida?

Very well, thank God.

The one phrase you might not have recognized is one that pretty well sums up the Costa Rican character.

Pura vida.

Literally, it translates as pure life, except in proper Spanish that would be vida pura.

He looks cool, at least from a distance.

The Costa Rican expression is the rough equivalent of “full of life” or “real life” or “cool.” Or perhaps, hakuna matata.

It’s an all-purpose phrase, used as a greeting and a farewell. You can use it to say thanks, or to express satisfaction. It’s hard to use it wrong.

The phrase arrived in Costa Rica in 1956 in a Mexican movie. In that film, pura vida was the expression of eternal optimism by a character who can’t seem to do anything right.

Here is Costa Rica, though, they seem to be doing many, many things quite right.

It’s a special place, notably different from its neighbors in Central America in lots of good ways.

Since 1948, Costa Rica is arguably the most stable democracy in Central America and among the better-functioning longstanding governments in the world.

Nearly universal literacy, national health care, an economy that has moved on from agriculture to ecotourism.

No army, no navy, no air force. Just a civilian police force.

It helps to have some friends with benefits, including the United States, available in an emergency.

We’re coming in to the Atlantic or Caribbean side of Costa Rica.

Costa Rica (the Rich Coast) is one of eight countries to have ports on both the Atlantic and Pacific: Canada, the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Colombia…and Panama.

And when we leave Puerto Limon, it is to Panama where we shall head, for our luxurious passage between the seas.

A STEAMY FIELD OF DREAMS

In a typical Major League Baseball game in the United States and Canada, an average of 100 baseballs are used.

Why so many? Some become scruffed or dirty in play, some go into the seats as foul balls, and a few make their way over the fence for a home run. The average lifespan of a baseball is just two plays.

And it is essential that—as much as possible—that all baseballs are close to identical: the same size, weight, and construction.

A Rawlings factory was established in Costa Rica in 1987, and it served as the exclusive provider of baseballs for the major leagues until 2013.

The factory is in Turrialba, east of the capital city of San Jose up in the mountains of Costa Rica and they make about 2.4 million baseballs per year, the vast majority of which are shipped to the United States.

The baseballs are mostly made by hand by three hundred qualified sewers, the best of whom can make three balls per hour. They earn less than $100 per week, making balls for athletes who earn many millions of dollars throwing, catching, or hitting.

The balls are made of horsehide or cowhide, tightly held together 108 hand stitches around a rubber wrapped cork center. Each ball, between 9 and 9¼ inches in circumference, weigh 5¼ ounces. must have 108 perfect stitches.

Despite the major production of baseballs, the sport itself is not very popular in Costa Rica. The leading sport is football, although many athletes here are very well aware of the success of players who have come from nearby Panama (Mariano Rivera), Nicaragua, Cuba, and hundreds from the Dominican Republic where the production of baseball players is a major industry.

Earlier this year, the Houston Astros signed 19-year-old pitching prospect Bryan Solano, born and raised here in Puerto Limon. He likely will have five or more years of work in the minor leagues, with hopes of someday taking the mound in a major league game.

But I could not pass up the chance to visit El Estadio de Beisbol in steamy Puerto Limon today to pay homage to a field of dreams.

All photos and text Copyright 2017 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved.

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