by Michael Miller
Beguiling bronzes of Fourth Avenue. Avenida Cuatro (4th Avenue) in Downtown San José, Costa Rica is known as “The Other Pedestrian Walkway.” It runs parallel to Avenida Central, only two blocks south. When compared to the more famous Avenida Central, which boasts the National Theater, the museums and many upscale shops, 4th Avenue is considerably more down-market, more working class.
But what might surprise you is the amount of public art that you will find on 4th Avenue. The 4th Avenue walkway boasts a number of fascinating statues. These pieces of public art make a walk down the Avenue well worth your time, and they are some of the wonderful surprises of Downtown San José.
Here are three of them:
At the western edge of the 4th Avenue Walkway is a beautiful church, called La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Merced (The Church of our Lady of Mercy). In a garden next to the church is a particularly eye-catching statue of Jesus. It shows Jesus standing with his arms outstretched facing the on-coming automobile traffic of the very busy intersection of Paseo Colon and Avenida 2. He appears to be blessing the travelers. The statue is called “Cristo del Camino” (Christ of the Highway).
The cross street is Calle 14 (14th Street).
At the opposite end of the 4th Avenue Walkway you will see another church. This one is called Iglesia la Soledad. Here you will find a small open plaza in front of the church with several park benches. Look at the benches. You will find a statue of a man sitting on one of the benches. The man is John Lennon. Beside him is a small brass plaque that contains a line, in Spanish, from the song “Imagine.”
People are often mystified why there is a statue of John Lennon in San Jose. The best explanation is that he was a symbol of peace during his lifetime, and Costa Rica is often called "The Republic of Peace." This statue has become a very popular spot, since you can sit next to the famous Beatle and get your picture taken.
Another way to find the John Lennon statue is to walk under the Chinese Arch on Avenida 2. The statue is one block south of the Arch. The cross street is Calle 9 (9th Street).
By far, the most poignant of the statues on 4th Avenue can be found next to the Cathedral Metropolitana. On the south side of the Cathedral, just outside the wrought iron fencing, there is a small inconspicuous statue of a young girl standing on a waist-high pedestal. Tens of thousands of people walk by this statue every day without ever noticing it. Or if they do notice it, most have no idea what it is or what it means.
The girl on the pedestal is looking heavenward, and if you look closely, you will see that her hands are bound. The girl is Anne Frank, the 15 year old Jewish girl who was led away by the Germans to a concentration camp. She later died in the Nazi death camps.
The statue of Anne Frank was a gift from the people of Holland, a country that suffered greatly in World War II, to the peace-loving people of Costa Rica. It was presented by the Dutch embassy in 2008 to serve as a painful reminder of the horrors of Nazism.
The cross street is Calle Centro (Center Street).
Downtown San José is full of wonderful little gems. These are just a few of the many works of public art you can find around this fascinating city. They are all part of the real San José.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org You can see additional stories that Michael has written about Downtown San José at his website: TheRealSanJose.com