As my guidebook says, “San Jose isn’t a pretty city.” Unlike other Latin American capitals I’ve visited, the architecture is relatively new and unremarkable. But there are a few things that stand out to me about San Jose. First, there are several lush and lovely inner-city parks that are delightful to stroll through in the afternoons and which provide a small sampling of the country’s beautiful tropical flora. The other is that there seems to be a hearty appreciation for art and culture here, which can be seen in some likely places, such as an impressive collection of theaters and museums (apparently, San Jose is home to the best museums that Central America has to offer), but can also be seen in some very unlikely places, such as painted on the walls near the Plaza de la Democracia. The graffiti here is impressive, yet there isn’t a whisper of it in my guidebook. It’s colorful, meaningful, and so well done that very few of the best designs are sullied by tagging or work from lesser graffiti artists. It makes wandering through an otherwise unremarkable city an urban art adventure.
That said, while we’ve been in San Jose, we’ve enjoyed the art—two contemporary museums, as well as the art of the streets, painted on canvasses of concrete and corrugated tin. Of course, we’ve also enjoyed seeing the typical sights, such as the Teatro Nacional, the plazas, markets, and churches—but I think we’ve enjoyed the art the most.
Tomorrow, we leave the urban jungle behind to experience a different kind of jungle as we head south to the eco reserve for volunteering.