Internationally renowned historian and reverend Yamil Jimenez Tabash gave a lecture to a standing-room-only audience in Perez Zeledon last Friday on an un-sanitized version of the history of Costa Rica – the true history – according to this Perez Zeledonian historian and scholar. Jimenez did not pull any punches, detailing both the locally accepted version of Tico history, and the more probably accurate version researched over twenty years, and in libraries in Europe, Asia and USA by this hometown scholar. The audience was mesmerized. The lecture was in flawless English, and attendees commented that they learned details about Costa Rica’s history and culture that would now make their experience here as expats much richer and more authentic.
Jimenez is a 62-year old author of eight books (in Spanish), the most epic of which is his Diccionario Biografico Del Filibusterismo, Volumes I and II, on which his lecture was based. This two-volume tour de force is over one thousand pages in length, including meticulous details of the soldiers who fought for American William Walker during the Filibuster War of Central America, against the Costa Rican soldiers who defended the tiny nation against a well-organized and funded American invasion.
Jimenez turned details of the Battle of Rivas, the battle which changed the course of history for Costa Rica, completely on their heads, and revealed stunning facts about how close Costa Rica became to being yet another slave state of the southern United States.
We think of filibustering usually as obstructive and delaying tactics used in the US legislature, but in the 1850s, the term referred to attempts by the US to take over countries at peace with the US, via privately financed military expeditions using soldiers of fortune. The word filibuster actually derives from the Spanish “filibustero”. These irregular soldiers were generally motivated by financial gain, political ideology, or the thrill of adventure. Jimenez spoke at length of one of the most notorious filibusters, the American William Walker, who was hired originally as a mercenary in the civil war in Nicaragua. He declared himself commander of Nicaragua’s army, then President of Nicaragua, before setting his eye on Costa Rica. Unfortunately, Walker way underestimated the strength of both the will of the Tico people and their eagerness to defend their sovereignty against the American imperialists.
Walker was eventually defeated by four Central American nations (including Costa Rica), and was put to death by the Honduran authorities whom he had tried to overthrow.
Jimenez’s writings about Costa Rican history are considered very controversial, challenging the true story of the Battle of Rivas, the authenticity of the little drummer boy Juan Santamaria, the national hero after whom the airport was named, and exploding many other culturally accepted myths and legends about this Central American country. One thing is for sure, his book and his lecture are mesmerizing. Jimenez revealed undertones of racism, patriotism, amazing courage, and qualities not usually mentioned first when speaking of this tiny country with no standing military.
Jimenez Tabash’s books are available through Amazon, and he lectures at the church he founded, Centro Victoria, in Morazan, PZ, every Sunday. Several of his books have been translated into English and Portuguese. He is considered one of Perez Zeledon’s most distinguished citizens for his knowledge of this country’s history and his oratory skills in presenting that history in a manner which makes the country’s history come alive for all. Nothing, however can beat hearing him speak in person.
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