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World March Blog
17 December 2009

Do you know the way to San José?

I’m not sure Dionne Warwick was talking about San José, Costa Rica when she sang, “I’ve got lots of friends in San José.” However, the lyrics fit perfectly.

Finally, after more than 70 countries through which the World March has passed we reach a country without an army and you can immediately feel the difference as you leave Nicaragua behind.  We have passed through many militarised countries in Central America all of which have suffered decades of dictatorships, genocides and slaughter.  Compare this to Costa Rica where there has been nothing like this since 1949 when they abolished the Army.  This country is so far ahead of its time it’s unbelievable.  In 1840 they abolished the death penalty!  The USA, China, India and Indonesia (the four countries with the world’s highest population) all still have it, along with 54 other countries that have used it in the last 10 years.  I was surprised to find that even little Togo in West Africa with a terrible history of dictatorship has just abolished the death penalty.

Another great thing about Costa Rica is our band of drummers who have been with us since we crossed into Guatemala.  Rafael, Jonathan, Felipe and Alberto have been banging their drums whenever we stopped the bus, and sometimes Alberto blows his didgeridoo.

The music makes such a difference to the atmosphere of a March, and in Central America they love music.  We’ve had brass bands and drummers accompanying us all over the region and many times, once a march has finished, the musicians gather around and start playing random tunes and making music.  The drummers are also really kind and open as was shown by the way that they invited Pierre to play with them as they marched.  Really, I can’t speak highly enough of the contribution that they made to our journey; apart from the fact that they bring their music they have been great company and a constant source of fun for all of us.

In San José we stayed at a Quaker Friends’ house and on our first evening on arrival we were invited by Alexander Mora Mora, the Costa Rican MP who accompanied the March through Europe, to his house for a party.  As an MP, Alexander lives in a nice part of the city and we were very well looked after and had the chance to meet other MPs and interesting people who are committed to Peace and Nonviolence.  Rafa is already starting to think about organising a Nuclear Disarmament Conference here in the future…

On the following day we had a short March through the city to the square where an all day concert was taking place in support of the World March.  It was all a great effort by the Costa Ricans.

The only sadness on this part of the World March was that we weren’t able to meet one of our biggest supporters, Rodrigo Carazo.  He was the former President of the country and the founder of the University for Peace.  He has been a great support of the World March and although we weren’t able to thank him in person we dedicate the Central American leg of the World March to his memory.

Finally, I can’t finish this entry without paying tribute to Ester Previtera from Costa Rica whose phenomenal efforts to gather the resources to pay for our bus through the region have been hugely appreciated by the base team and many thanks to Ticabus and our driver Hugo who did a great job in getting us safely to our destinations.  Travelling by bus has its advantages over flying: firstly there’s no need to waste time to check in– you can just get out of bed, have a shower, throw your possessions back in your bag and leave; you don’t have to worry about your electronic equipment interfering with the flight controls; and you can see the countryside go by.  It has been a very long trip through the region but one that I shall never forget.

With a big hug

Tony

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