Tue. Apr 23rd, 2019

The old desire to restore for tourism the "Island of men alone"

The old desire to restore for tourism the "Island of men alone"



After attempts of several governments and numerous proposals, Costa Rica seeks again to fulfill the old desire to restore for San Lucas Island tourism, site that housed the most brutal prison in the country and where the novel was created "The island of men alone. "

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For years now, there has been an opportunity to restore the buildings that housed the prison on the island and turn them into a tourist attraction both for what the site represented historically and for the natural wealth that surrounds it.

The island is located in the Pacific off the coast of the city of Puntarenas and ran between 1873 and 1991 to house the most dangerous inmates in the country; and since 2001 the site was declared a Wildlife Refuge.

The governments have tried to restore some buildings of the old penal center like the chapel and the captaincy, but the resources have not been enough and the place has been deteriorating, to which acts of vandalism are added.

The current government of President Carlos Alvarado announced this week a "Route of Reactivation" of the site, with the aim of turning it into a sustainable tourist attraction and a source of economic reactivation for the communities of the Gulf of Nicoya, in the province of Puntarenas.

The Government has recognized that the wealth of architectural heritage is at serious risk due to its deterioration and lack of maintenance, and that the shortage of surveillance personnel increases the vulnerability of the patrimonial structures, the dry forest and the maritime zone of the island.

The announced route establishes four stages for the reactivation of San Lucas and foresees the first semester of 2021 as the moment to start the construction of the works.

The first stage is that of previous economic, environmental, historical and technical studies; then a master plan will be drawn up that will define the amount to be invested, a phase that will lead to the preparation of construction plans, budgets and permits; to finally start works.

The amount needed for the project is still unknown, but according to the Government there are already public funds committed to this initiative for some 2.4 million dollars, mostly from the Costa Rican Institute of Pacific Ports (INCOP) and the Costa Rican Institute of Tourism (ICT).

In the short term, the Government has promised the inclusion of park and police guards with daytime and nighttime presence on the island, the preparation of a house for these officials, the rehabilitation of a path, the intervention of urgent heritage structures and the preparation of a short-term visitation strategy.

The prison began to operate under the orders of the dictator Tomás Guardia (1831-1882). At first, there were sent to the "undesirable politicians" and then to the most violent criminals in the country.

Despite having been closed in 1991, some politicians during the campaigns have promises to build a new penal center to house the most dangerous criminals there, however, it is unlikely that this will happen.

In the prison of San Lucas numerous human rights violations were committed and the prisoners were exposed to infrahuman conditions as punishment.

The main story of what happened in that jail is included in the novel "The island of men alone", published in 1972 by the Costa Rican José León Sánchez, who was imprisoned there between 1950 and 1988.

One of the main tourist attractions of Isla San Lucas are the hundreds of writings that can be seen on the walls of the cells, as well as large drawings with high sexual content and one about the Brazilian ex-footballer Pelé.

Two of the most representative drawings of the walls of the jail are known as "The girl in the red bikini" and "The girl of consolation", two life-size works that represented beautiful women and with which the inmates fantasized.

To the site there is a certain influx of tourists who, in addition to the old jail, can walk through the dry tropical forest that surrounds the place.

The island has indigenous archaeological sites, biodiversity, as well as beaches where at some point there was interest in building hotel complexes.

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