A note from the Publisher: The Costa Rica Blog Network has chosen to feature the following article for its exploration of a costa rican site nearly forgotten: “the former tuberculosis hospital. The edifice is now derelict: a sorry, dirty skeleton of a once thriving sanatorium where sufferers of the highly infectious disease were once treated in isolation; the cool mountain air serving as a panacea.” Thanks to Harriet for submitting her personal account to us. We hope the sanatorium visit was as chilling, thrilling, and thought-provoking for you as your written account of it is for us readers. Pura vida!
Featured Author: Harriet Muller (visit the Harriet Muller Art Blog)
On the serpentine road up to Irazú Volcano you will pass a rambling labyrinthine building high upon the hilltop. Despite the intense sunshine the structure appears majestically ominous, or perhaps my first impression had been tainted by the many ghost stories I had heard about the former tuberculosis hospital. The edifice is now derelict: a sorry, dirty skeleton of a once thriving sanatorium where sufferers of the highly infectious disease were once treated in isolation; the cool mountain air serving as a panacea.
My two friends and I walked trepidly along convoluted corridors and creaking staircases, wandering from one room to the next, attempting to guess the history of each room. Some kind soul had put us out of our misery and had affixed a paper label to the wall of a few of the rooms, denoting the operating room, the (squat) toilets and the women and children’s wards. As we descended into the basement, phone torch lighting the way, I half hoped we would view at least one spectral image. The day was too pretty to entice any ghostly apparitions out of the penumbra. Incidentally, what I then saw was far more haunting than any phantasmagorical being. I encountered a long light blue corridor. On either side children’s hand prints in primary colours covered the walls and in the corner by the door written in capital letters in red paint was a chilling plea:
Somos humanos no somos delincuentes, por favor queremos vivir.
(We are human, we are not criminals, we want to live please.)
Further along the corridor, the walls were decorated with childlike drawings of happy stick men. One was particularly poignant: a painting of a bald child with a square body. The face was adorned with a beaming smile and while the figure did not posses any arms, it did however display a huge heart. An image of optimism within a space of disease, death and exile. What struck me most was the fact that hope was expressed through the medium of art. I later researched the history of the sanatorium. Nevertheless, the thing that taught me the most about what life might have been like in that hospital was the artwork left as a testimony of a child’s truthful experience there.
Click here to read the above post on the Harriet Muller Art Blog
About Harriet Muller:
Anglo Costa Rican artist who likes to tell stories.
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