The celebration of the six years that library doors have been open to serve the people of Colonia de Guayabo and surrounding areas exemplify the opportunities the Curt Thomas Sheck Community Library brings to this rural place. Rather than an activity-packed daylong event that wore us all out when we tried it at three years, we opted for four special events in a monthlong celebration.
Our first was inauguration of a series of monthly talks by archaeologists, mainly from the University of Costa Rica, who are studying the civilization that existed in the area from as early as 3000 years ago until sometime in the 1400s. Ruins of one of its cities are protected in Guayabo National Monument, up the road from the Curt Thomas Sheck Community Library, but excavations are underway outside of the state-protected area on farms in the area as well as continuing work in the monument itself. We are grateful to Guayabo resident Rosa Fernandez, who has been involved with the library since pre-construction days and now operates a small tour company, for coordinating this series. Too often scientific research ends up in academic journals or university lectures—not in this case. The people who live today on this “sacred ground” and dig up potsherds every time they plant flowers or dig in a field, are getting firsthand insights into how the early people lived, who they traded with, something about their food and health, and how they built their cities, villages. acueducts and roads.
The following week, since the community has a national park as a neighbor, we screened the film “National Parks Symphony,” made to celebrate the centennial of the US National Park System, featuring music of the Utah symphony and fantastic video of the “five giants” that are part of the National Park System. Honored guests were the personnel of Guayabo National Monument. Landscapes of parks such as Bryce and Zion contrast dramatically with the lush green vegetation of Guayabo National Monument, but remind us of the beauty of our common planet and how critical the day-to-day work of conservation is a responsibility we all share, wherever we live.
A highly anticipated event, standing room only, was a Sunday evening concert featuring Carlos Velasco, a superb tenor from San José, who also helped us celebrate the 3rd anniversary. Having studied with Plácido Domingo, Carlos has sung in great theaters in Germany, Italy, Austria, France, South America and, of course, Costa Rica. And he has now sung twice in the library at Colonia de Guayabo! Carlos has become a friend of the library. He led off with “Ave María” and “O Solo Mio” but also included favorites from Latin America and even a rendition of “My Way” in Spanish. His voice carried well beyond the walls of the library, bathing the early-evening landscape with music not heard “live” here before the library became a reality.
We finalized the celebration on a Sunday afternoon with doña Margarita Salazar, wife of Costa Rica’s most famous poet, Jorge Debravo, talking about her daily life with Jorge, who was born up the road in Guayabito. Dirt poor as a boy, he was largely self-educated, only learning inside a schoolroom at age 14 when he received a scholarship. He wrote about the common man, calling for social justice, brotherhood and love. He continues to speak through his poems beyond his death at an early age in 1967—victim of a drunk driver. Margarita brought photographs and handwritten copies of his writings. Afterwards, Bob Oldham, a friend of the library, who lives about 30 minutes away, helped each participant print a copy of “Soy Hombre,” one of Debravo’s short poems, on one of Bob’s small hand presses. None of the participants had seen a hand press before, much less used one, so it was an added educational opportunity.
Please keep checking in. Future blogs will feature ongoing and special activities, challenges (a current one is that the bridge between the nearest larger town, Turrialba, and Colonia the Guabayo was damaged by a rampaging river fed by torrential rains and has been out for about two months now), some of the people who keep the library operating as well as library users and new ventures.
Thank you for continuing to make the work of the Curt Thomas Sheck Community Library going.