Originally uploaded by Mic2006.
Cartago was once the capital of Costa Rica but it was replaced in 1823 by San Jose. The town began to grow in the 1500’s and as early as 1562 the pious locals erected a church to St. James the Apostle. Unfortunately the quakes and eruptions of the nearby Irazu Volcanoe threw down every structure that was ever raised on the site of the old church. Finally in 1910 the townspeople gave up. A massive gothic cathedral that had been erected there was shaken down by an earthquake once again. It was just not meant to be.
The town sits on pretty shaky ground, all of the grandest of colonial buildings have been destroyed and what remains is subject to a continual trembling assault. Earthquake damage is a fact of life here. Renaldo , our taxi driver explained the outrageous crevice running down the middle of the road near Parrita as being from the earth quake six months ago. The bridge just outside town also appears to have moved. The tar is stretched up to the edge of the concrete, like distorted skin over a broken bone. The cars had to slow to a virtual standstill to negotiate the bump.
Irazu’s last eruption was in 1994 whereupon it poured ash over the area for more than two years. Roofs collapsed from the weight, the stench of sulphur was ever-present and as though they lived in an endless ash storm, locals waded through the settling mire with black-stained umbrellas. Nearby San Jose had to clear their streets with a snow plow.
The site of the toppled cathederal is known to locals as “Las Ruinas”. It is a gloomy place at the town’s centre. The windows are high and narrow and a great arching span of rock supports a precarious stairway within. It is far to fragile for human feet and so it is now only trodden by angels. The populous live close to their gods and miracles and divine intervention is an ever present fact of life.
The curious are kept from the cathedral’s gardened centre by bars across the entry portals. Ferns now grow from between well trodden paving stones within. We skirt the outer perimeter of this apparently impenetrable structure and find our most advantageous view beneath a large green bell. It would likely have rang out desperately as the earth shook and the roof tumbled inwards.
Along it’s streaked grey walls local teenagers gathered. Several girls in school uniform flirted with youths attired in the height of American fashion; baggy pants, hoods and runners. It is the Costa Rica “gangsta” look. My attempt to photograph the gathering was met with the characteristic modesty expected of young ladies. They turned their backs and walked away.