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The missing city June 5, 2014

Posted by stinawp in Uncategorized.

From the air at night, Costa Rica’s Central Valley looks very different than the daytime view I’ve seen four times now. By day, the tin-roofed buildings of San José, Alajuela, San Pedro, and other towns form a dense mesh that can take hours to navigate. Over 2 million people (a third of Costa Rica’s population) live in the San José greater metropolitan area, and by day, you can tell.


At night, you can’t. If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought that we were flying over the outlying countryside and San José was somewhere over the horizon. The reason is the lights. Anyone who’s flown into a US city at night has seen the plethora of street lamps, lit-up signs for gas and fast food, and the streaming ribbons of head- and taillights. In San José, only some of the streets are lit, with widely-spaced rows of lamps down one side or the other. Fast food restaurants and gas stations in the city don’t invest in signs like glowing lollipops, possibly because there are few cars out and about after dark, even at 7:30 at night.


The effect was eerie. I had to keep reminding myself that we were, in fact, flying over a large metropolis filled with people, instead of the nearly rural landscape suggested by the lights. But eventually we landed, and I saw that San José really was still there.



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