In 2005 while I was doing a practicum at a newspaper in Spain, I overheard a designer pass off as fact a story about Costa Rica; I couldn’t help but eavesdrop in the hallway. The designer said that on that “Caribbean island,” when a hurricane came, everyone gathered in Saprissa Stadium and started blowing in the opposite direction until the danger had passed. According to the story, this worked very well, and that’s why there was never any news of hurricanes in Costa Rica.I didn’t say anything because I didn’t know whether to laugh or get angry, and because I thought the story was only an exaggerated version of what Ticos think about ourselves: that we can scare off a hurricane with the sheer windpower of the Virgin of Los Angelees, or that divine forces prefer us above other countries more frequently punished by natural disasters.We can say now that that myth has been swept aside. It was ripped away by the winds of more than 150 kilometers per hour that brought us Hurricane Otto on Nov. 24. This was the first time that a hurricane’s eye and heart had entered our national territory, according to historical records. This time we must not have blown quite as hard as we did in 1988 when Hurricane Juana came to call – or maybe the Virgin of Los Angeles, because of her many devotees in Nicaragua, chose this time to protect that country, where the hurricane caused no deaths and only isolated damage.Let’s remember what we felt on Thursday afternoon, before we knew Otto would be tragic. We knew the hurricane had made landfall on Nicaragua’s southern Caribbean coast and we thought that, once more, we had dodged a bullet. I read some comments of frustration and criticism leveled at the government’s preventive operations, arguing that these were excessive. In the Central Valley the light rain and breeze were almost pleasant. If not for the hard work of authorities and the media, we would have thought it was a delightful afternoon, because the roads were even clear of traffic.Bah – a hurricane isn’t such a big deal. Look! There are no problems on the Caribbean coast. The waves on TV were the usual, except that they were narrated in anxious tones by some of my colleagues. At 5 p.m. we felt victorious as a country, blessed by the angels and by La Negrita. I remember reading jokes, messages of relief and thanks, questions about the “alarmist” preparations of President Luis Guillermo Solís.What’s more, I interviewed a serious official from the National Emergency Commission (CNE) who said that while the alert was maintained, the initial scare had passed. I included this comment in a story I wrote for El País with the title “El huracán Otto perdona a Costa Rica” (“Hurricane Otto pardons Costa Rica”) and I sent it off at dusk. A few minutes later I let them know that they should hold the story for a moment, that there were reports from the Northern Zone. I saw those reports in not terribly reliable sources, but it was better to wait. Just a moment, just a moment, almost ready. Let’s see…At that very moment the tragedies were occuring. A swollen creek ripped an 8-month-old baby from the arms of his mother. A river took a house, two or three, as if they were made of paper. In one of those houses was a mother and her son. A river rushed out as if drunk from consuming so much water and vomited brown debris all over a town where nearly 17,000 people live. Upala, with the upaleños inside, was torn down the way a sand castle is torn down when a wave comes, with one difference: no one expected it. Let’s be honest. In Upala, no one expected this, and in the Central Valley we didn’t think the Northern Zone was so vulnerable, mostly because we often forget that the Northern Zone exists.That’s why at 5 p.m. on Thursday we thought that Costa Rica had made it through unscathed, because the Central Valley had made it through unscathed, and our priority areas as well. That was good, of course, but the hurricane continued its path toward the Pacific, carrying various towns with it. We found out little by little – through a news report, a desperate and anonymous WhatsApp audio clip, a stranger’s post on Twitter. (Of course, I don’t think there are too many upaleños on Twitter.) Later came the official confirmations, the facts and the presidential announcement: “There are people dead and missing.” The face of President Solís was a face of sadness and rage.At that point I did send my news to Madrid: Hurricane Otto had not pardoned Costa Rica after all.The second myth had been torn down. Costa Rica is much more than the Central Valley and the regions that the Central Valley decides to watch in any given situation. Costa Rica lost its undefeated record in hurricanes, on one of its neglected flanks. Otto sank its poisoned arrow in Costa Rica’s heel, on the edge of the map, so far and so close.At dawn on Friday, at first light, we began to see our tragedy. The press and the government brought us scenes of destruction, everything that had happened while here in the Central Valley we thought we were undefeated, invincible or “blessed.”That’s when we remembered that we are also one people; that we, too, are the people of our coasts and borders; that we have more accents, more geographies and more realities than we sometimes realize. The after-the-fact solidarity we have seen in the past few days is good evidence of this.We also remembered that there are more political leaders we need to hold accountable, because I suspect that even local leaders are vallecentralistas in their preventive logic and wait for San José to provide, order and aid. For example, I wonder if the mayor of Upala and others did their due diligence in preparing their towns for the hurricane.The good thing is that now we are more conscious of our map, less naive about the dangers that a changing Mother Nature brings us. The bad thing is that we are learning the hard way. The very worst thing would be to keep tripping over the same stone.Read our complete Hurricane Otto coverage here.Álvaro Murillo is an experienced journalist who specializes in political coverage and has written for La Nación, Semanario Universidad and El País. In “No Sugar, Please,” his twice-monthly column, he explores politics in its broadest terms, from the halls of government to community life. Connect with him on Twitter. Facebook Comments Related posts:Make Costa Rica great again? Political renewal is needed – but it can’t be forced January’s here and the gloves are off: Costa Rica’s true campaign begins Deaths, disappearances in northern Costa Rica in aftermath of Hurricane Otto
The 5: Takeaways from the Coyotes’ introduction of Alex Meruelo 25.Tennessee Titans3-4lost to LA Chargers 20-19(▼4)Love the decision to go for two; hated the play call. 12.Cincinnati Bengals4-3lost to Kansas City 45-10(▼2)Smashed by Kansas City. At least they have company in that group. 23.New York Jets3-4lost to Minnesota 37-17(▼4)The perils of starting a rookie QB: Darnold was terrible against the Vikings. 26.Indianapolis Colts2-5beat Buffalo 37-5(▲3)Andrew Luck has 15 TD passes over his last four games. 7.Los Angeles Chargers5-2beat Tennessee 20-19(–)Winning streak temporarily halted by Week 8 bye. 31.Oakland Raiders1-5Bye Week(▲1)Trading Cooper for a first-rounder is the best thing they’ve done this season. 4.Kansas City Chiefs6-1beat Cincinnati 45-10(–)Four more touchdowns for Patrick Mahomes. 5.Minnesota Vikings4-2-1beat NY Jets 37-17(▲1)Can anyone slow down Adam Thielen? 6.Baltimore Ravens4-3lost to New Orleans 24-23(▼1)Nobody in Baltimore feels worse than Justin Tucker. 13.Chicago Bears3-3lost to New England 38-31(▼2)If only Trubisky could’ve put a little more oomph on that throw… 29.Buffalo Bills2-5lost to Indianapolis 37-5(▼1)It turns out Derek Anderson is still in the league. Good for him. 9.Green Bay Packers3-2-1Bye Week(–)Packers play Rams, Patriots, Seahawks and Vikings on the road in the next five weeks. 10.Carolina Panthers4-2beat Philadelphia 21-17(▲5)Tremendous fourth-quarter comeback in Philly. 11.Washington Redskins4-2beat Dallas 20-17(▲8)Washington fans the only ones who liked the penalty on the Dallas long snapper. 15.Seattle Seahawks3-3Bye week(▲2)Back from the bye to take on Detroit. RankTeamRecordResultMovementComment Grace expects Greinke trade to have emotional impact 4 Comments Share 16.Philadelphia Eagles3-4lost to Carolina 21-17(▼2)Eagles look almost nothing like the team that won the Super Bowl. Former Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson retires Top Stories 32.Arizona Cardinals1-6lost to Denver 45-10(▼1)What a mess. Here’s a full look at this week’s pecking order.Arizona Sports NFL Power Rankings – Week 8 24.Denver Broncos3-4beat Arizona 45-10(▲1)Either Von Miller rallied his team, or he knew how bad the Cardinals are. Derrick Hall satisfied with D-backs’ buying and selling 19.Detroit Lions3-3Beat Miami 32-21(▲4)Offense, bolstered by Kerryon Johnson, has looked good the last two games. 17.Miami Dolphins4-3lost to Detroit 32-21(▼1)On the bright side, Brock Osweiler finally looks serviceable. 30.San Francisco 49ers1-6lost to LA Rams 39-10(–)C.J. Beathard continues to be the most turnover-plagued QB in football. 22.Tampa Bay Buccaneers3-3beat Cleveland 26-23 (OT)(▲2)Beat the Browns despite being -3 in turnovers. 27.Cleveland Browns2-4-1lost to Tampa Bay 26-23 (OT)(▼1)Browns have played four OT games in their first seven contests. 2.New Orleans Saints5-1beat Baltimore 24-23(–)More milestones for Drew Brees. 14.Houston Texans4-3beat Jacksonville 20-7(▲6)Suddenly, the Texans have won four in a row. 8.Pittsburgh Steelers3-2-1Bye Week(–)Will try to “avenge” Week 1 tie vs. Cleveland. 21.Dallas Cowboys3-4lost to Washington 20-17(▼3)Lost a game that rightly should have gone to overtime. 1.Los Angeles Rams7-0beat San Francisco 39-10(–)Todd Gurley is on pace for 32 touchdowns. We’re nearing the halfway point (for most teams) of the 2018 NFL season, and we’ve got four really good teams and about five that are just terrible.At the top of the pecking order, things look the same this week as the Rams, Saints, Patriots and Chiefs — last week’s top four teams — all won in Week 7 and still constitute the top eighth of the league.At the bottom, there was a little movement. It’s impossible not to return the Arizona Cardinals to the cellar after a nationally televised beatdown at the hands of the Denver Broncos that led to the firing of offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and a reported trade demand from Patrick Peterson — arguably the team’s best defensive player. 18.Jacksonville Jaguars3-4lost to Houston 20-7(▼6)Outscored by Texas teams 60-14 over the last two weeks. 3.New England Patriots5-2beat Chicago 38-31(–)Never hurts your chances of winning when you get two special teams touchdowns. 20.Atlanta Falcons3-4beat NY Giants 23-20(▲2)Ryan has completed almost 75% of his throws with 13 TDs and zero interceptions over last five games. Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller (58) hits Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen (3) as he throws during the second half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) 28.New York Giants1-6lost to Atlanta 23-20(▼1)Back-to-back 1-6 starts for the G-Men. Somewhere, Ben McAdoo is laughing.