Posts Tagged ‘squares’

Central Squares

Again this is an entry that i started some time ago, the time when i devoted part of the day to writing. I yearned for a central park when i was in the tourist towns of manual antonio, monteverde and montuzuma, and now i have been around them but i do not linger. I hung around the various squares in San Jose, but never stayed long, watching people, children playing, families gathering, people listening to music, and a few tourists taking photos – myself included.

I came to Granada, as a colonial town, one with a restored parque central dominated by the huge yellow cathedral off to one side. Yet i do not linger there – it is dominated by the locals, who have claimed all the shady benches, and i do not feel right sitting there alone – the tourist blocks the run towards the lake, with the outside tables at the restaurants seem the place for that. There are vendors selling hotdogs, cigarettes and drinks, souvenirs, and snacks, and two shady stands set up with tables in the corners to buy coffee or icecream. As many times as i walk through it, i do not stay, it is not a place for me to people watch and i am disappointed.

But i do not know why – i had the same feeling in many of the squares in Mexico, those that i idealized and yearned for – some were ok for a woman, a gringa, alone, and others were fine when i wsa with someone else, but others were for the locals, the place where they can relax and live their lives.

But still, they provide a centre, a place that you can come back to, a public place with trees, as many of the homes and buildings are built straight on the sidewalk, the leafy gardens hidden away in the courtyards. And for those who have, that is the private place for retreat.

And around this square, here in granada, are some restos and bars where you can sit outside and watch all go by. And the traffic around it is sane – actually the traffic on the narrow one way streets in general is same. Another smaller square abuts this, and the pedestrian street is off beside the cathedral. Yet where the action and chaos is is the market place.

I was in one more town, Liberia, in costa rica, not a tourist town, with a central square, not leafy and green, only a bit of shade. i sat there briefly consulting my guide, it was a place to sit. Crossing into it was a challenge, as traffic whizzed by on all the sides, A smaller church at one end of course, and restos around. Yet, it provided an anchor to the place, the middle of the commercial zone, and a few paused here to sit a while – maybe it was the lack of shade, but was not a place where children played.

Initial entry

Ososi where i stay is a wonderful small town, but i have felt that something was missing, but it was a something that i could not define. But now i know what it is – it is the parque central or central square that forms the centre of most cities and towns that i have been in in this land.
The square is an essential feature of the towns, it is their hearts, the core, though the city or town may have spread far beyond, and other parks and squares may have been built as well. But the centre is the centre it is the heart. And where one should be in Orosi lies the soccar field, also an essential component of Costa rican towns, but it is not a place to gather.
The parque central is the heart, it is a relief from the craziness outside, a place to rest and reflect, and a place to gather, for people alone, for children to play, friends and lovers. It is the place in the centre of the maps ‘ a defining place from which you can explore, if you can find your way back you know how to go out in another direction.
They are often leafy, with trees and benches below. You can sit and watch the world go by. And while there are similarities each has its own flavor.

I fell in love with them on my trip to mexico a few years back – the zocallo they were callled, and they were full of life – often a church on one end, and in colonial towns historic buildings surrounded, and cafes were laid out upon the endges. Here there are no cafes in the towns where i have been, a fast food chain somewhere on the perimeter in the larger places, but still. And while the village green is a part of old new england towns, and i spent time in the squares in new york they are not as ingrained part of the culture, and i wonder if they still are here.

In Alueja it was the place to where i returned over and over again, trees, benches, music and later in the week vendors as well. On the peremiter are banks, a few stores, a heladeria )ice cream places and people line up at the special counter at McDonalds for icecream. on the edge is a church.

In Cartago the center square has few trees, but it is large. It sits beside las ruinas, the remains of an old church that had been rebuilt too many times and now is an open structure with gardens within. It is near the market, the local buses stop on one edge and the other bus companies stop within a few blocks. There are panderias near by, and banks, and stores, the centre of the shopping district. Traffic whizzes by, but on one end are the ever too rare traffic lights to you may easily cross the street. While not as removed, it is an oasis, and when you find your way there, directions finally make sense.

I spent but a few moments at the square in Hereida that one day i was there, but dogs lounged and children played, people ate lunch and there was more life than in the fancier gardens that belongs to the church that sat on its edge.

My favorite so far has been the square in Turrialba though it held less human life, and it was mainly men who sat about. Still it has many trees, and wooden sculptures of monkeys and other animals, a new gazebo, and like the town, they are trying to bring life to it. It sits across the street from a newer church, and signs inside announce the free wifi available in the town. I feel life coming back, the town was poorer at the edges, and from above it sprawled out a bit more – the shop streets led out from the park and some sodas and restos surrounded it – the traffic was less crazy as they had built a new bus station up the hill a few blocks away a few years ago.


What i long for is a square to sit and reflect, to write and relax and people watch. My morning in New York at Bryant Square was one of those moments – i could be there, sit and write. What will i find as i journey on – i do not know, but i will find out.

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