San Lucas Island "The Independent Republic"
ALONG WITH THE ENJOYMENT OF THE EXCEPTIONAL NATURAL CHARMS OF THE SURROUNDINGS, TOURISTS CAN ALSO LEARN ABOUT THE HISTORY OF AN OLD AND FAMOUS MEN'S PRISON THAT WAS IN OPERATION FOR MORE THAN A HUNDRED YEARS IN THIS ISLAND TERRITORY
Up to the remote and quiet San Lucas Island, located in the Gulf of Nicoya, in Costa Rica, the tourist of the new type arrives today, eager to live different and unique experiences. In addition to contemplating the wonderful nature of this insular territory, the visitor seeks to know the history of the prison that was in operation there between 1873 and 1991. Discovering how much legend and reality there is in the stories that are woven about the prison is the main motivation of many.
Declared in 2002 Architectural Historical Heritage of Costa Rica, the prison was already known worldwide in the nineteenth
century thanks to the novel La isla de los hombres solos (The Island of the Lonely Men,) written by José León Sánchez, who was held there for two decades of his life, when the site only received thieves and bums. However, over the years, the prison facility was transformed until it held the most dangerous criminals in the country.
After the definitive closure of the prison in 1991, the Ministry of Justice transferred its custody to the Municipality of Puntarenas, with the objective of building a historic tourist center that would protect the memories and the centennial infrastructure, which, together with the exceptional natural charms of the island, would ensure the influx of visitors.
When arriving at San Lucas Island, the tourist can now visit the facilities of the old prison, the medical clinic and the church. It is shocking to know that in each of the seven jail cells, up to 70 people were sleeping on the floor and only entitled to one hour of sunshine per day. The graffiti on the walls are a graphic testimony of the terrible conditions in which the inmates lived: illnesses, murders and escape attempts, almost all without success.
But, although the prison is the main interest of the tourists that arrive there, the island, of 472 hectares, also has gorgeous beaches, an enormous biodiversity and archaeological sites with residential, domestic and funerary characteristics.
A walk through the dry tropical forest that surrounds the old prison, and since 2001 is a Wildlife Shelter, allows you to discover the amazing and abundant vegetation of the island, as well as its rich fauna, composed of howler monkeys, squirrels, armadillos, pheasants, deer, raccoons, anteaters, crocodiles and many other reptile and bird species, as well as hammerhead sharks, stingrays and turtles that live in its waters.
Imposing beauty that contrasts with the grim prison and its past of crimes and horrors, many of which will remain trapped in the enigmatic silence that today is only broken by the coming and going of the waves.