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Stories about San José

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Semana Santa (Holy Week) Turns San Jose into a Ghost Town

Updated: Jul 2, 2018

Avenida 7 in front of the INS building, the national insurance headquarters, is normally teeming with cars and pedestrians at this hour of the morning.

by Michael Miller

(March, 2016)

Semana Santa (Holy Week) Turns San José into a Ghost Town.  International visitors to Costa Rica are sometimes taken aback at how Costa Ricans deal with Semana Santa or Holy Week.  This is the week from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday.

In the U. S. the week is hardly noticed, except by those who might attend a religious service, such as The Stations of the Cross on Good Friday at a Catholic Church.

The view in front of Casa Amarilla, the nation’s foreign ministry, shows Avenida 7 virtually deserted.

But Costa Ricans take Semana Santa seriously. They leave town.

Government offices, banks and most businesses close up shop, many for the entire week.  Hundreds of thousands of families from the Central Valley pack into private cars and tourist buses, and head to the beach resorts, leaving San José a virtual ghost town.

Avenida Segundo (Second Avenue) is the main thoroughfare through the center of San José. Usually jammed with cars, buses and trucks, it is hauntingly empty.

The Cathedral Metropolitana, stands proudly looking out over an uncommonly quiet Second Avenue.

One of San José’s homeless men takes advantage of Holy Week by sleeping unmolested in the middle of Avenida Central at the Plaza de la Cultura. Normally at 7:30 in the morning, this pedestrian walkway would be packed with tens of thousands of Ticos hurrying to work.

Even Starbucks, which opens at 6 a.m. on weekday mornings to serve coffee to the thousands of commuters, is shuttered.

Familiar downtown views, such as this photo of Calle 5 showing buildings both old and the new, show a rare scene with almost no traffic.

Michael Miller is the author of the first and only guide book that focuses on Downtown San José, Costa Rica, titled The Real San José. Paperback copies are available for sale at selected retail outlets in San José.  An electronic version of The Real San José is available at Amazon/Kindle.  To access it, click here.

Your questions and comments are always welcomed. You can contact Michael directly by email: You can see additional stories that Michael has written about Downtown San José at his website:


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