Costa Rica Blog of the Year: Página 115/Revista Soho

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Costa Rica BlogTicos consumed heaping amounts of social media content in 2011, and blogs featured very prominently in their delectation. Smart journalists like Amelia Rueda make sure they cover all facets of social media, and to that extent she keeps a number of blogs that empower her audience by keeping them informed about significant current issues and social commentary. Then there’s the oft-recognized El Infierno en Costa Rica blog, which has scooped that old media stalwart La Nación; although, to be fair to La Nación and other traditional media outlets in Costa Rica, blogs are now a regular and refreshing feature of their digital editions.

Another blog that’s worth mentioning is Quién Paga Manda (The Customer Is Always Right), a platform for consumers to voice their opinion -which is frequently of discontent- about commercial establishments that seek to become paragons of consumption in Costa Rica. The blog is maintained by Hazel Feigenblatt, a journalist who also writes about customer service issues at El Financiero. Hazel’s blog saw a meteoric rise in male readership after she was photographed for SoHo Magazine, but the blog has a network of contributors who bring to mind crucial consumer issues that the ever-polite Ticos would otherwise be too demure to bring to a public platform for discussion.

To be fair to Quién Paga Manda, Amelia Rueda, and El Chamuko at Ticoblogger, their blogs are of extreme importance due to their social empowerment, and their writing -as it should- tends to err on the side of utilitarianism. There is one blog in Costa Rica where three writers come together to finely ply their trade by using language as the message. Página 115 is unlikely hosted at the digital edition of SoHo Magazine -a lad’s mag, as they would say in Britain. Buried at the very back of the publication, and preceded by beer advertisements and pictorials of seductive models in various stages of undress, lies some of the best writing in Costa Rica. Página 115 is the work of a triumvirate: Danny Brenes, Manfred Vargas and Alberto Calvo. The themes explored by these three young gifted writers range from the highbrow to the mundane. One post this year lamented on the sad juxtaposition of ExpoMóvil against Semana Santa, while a post in October dealt with the strange trend of “ruin porn” -whereby there is an unusual appreciation of how industrial cities like Detroit have fallen into hard times and its effect on architecture.

Página 115 is simply high-caliber writing, and it may be the reason why a surprising amount of Ticas read SoHo Magazine. The writing is, of course, in Spanish. A recent post is a nice coming-of-age story that many Ticos would be familiar with, and it is very similar in tone and style as the short story “Forever Overhead” by the late American writer David Foster Wallace. It also recalls the iconic swimming pool scene from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”

Here’s a brief translated excerpt of “Underwater Cynicisms (Part 1)”, which doesn’t even begin to do justice to the original. The story deals with what happens when the uncomfortable hormonal rush of youth becomes manifest during swimming lessons. It is a story worth learning Spanish for.

“E. entered the water with a perfect dive, exquisite and inaudible. The vulgar doggie-paddler mistakenly confuses brute force with the act of treading water, thinking that bitch-slapping the surface with an open hand will improve buoyancy. Such thinking is the product of a third-world upbringing. Swimming, like any other athletic discipline that requires thoughtful training and dedication, is an art. Water must be caressed. The mirror reflection of its surface shall not be broken; hands must be wielded like sharp blades to make careful, meticulous and well-planned incisions. The more elegance and thoughtfulness applied, the lesser the splash. The same goes for arm and leg strokes, breathing rhythms and for executing dives. E.’s dive was perfect.

The wild and synthetic motion of the human body that twists and turns forming a lake from drops of water -a cyclone, if you will- is the incorruptible and mysterious ballet of the soul escaping reality by plunging into the unknown. We swim because we wish to escape. We swim because the water does not allow us to see. We cease to exist in the water; we become lively and youthful when we are wet. It is as captivating as it is bewildering.

That’s what I told E., sometime later, when she asked me why I just remained immobile, sitting by the side of the pool, not doing anything except staring at her unabashedly; why, when she finally emerged from the water and gave me a knowing smile which was as obvious as a pop ballad, I remained silent without even saying hello. Why, when she walked by -swaying her hips to the max and naturally undulating the swimsuit which could barely contain (because it didn’t really want to) the wonders of her firm flesh and supple skin- I didn’t try to approach her. That’s what I told her.”

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