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The National Theater

Teatro Nacional

The National Theater

The construction of the Costa Rica’s National Theater is the crystallization of a wish, during the 19th century, by the Costa Pican people. The idea gained support when, as a result of a chain of earthquakes during the latter part of December, 1888, the Municipal Theater was destroyed. Following the earthquakes, several international groups, comprised of prestigious figures, participated in the design and construction of the National Theater. The urgency became ardent when the famous Adelina Patti refused to make a presentation in the smaller provisional theater named «De Variedades». This episode propelled the Costa Rican community, particularly the joséfinos, to support the construction of this grand coliseum.

To help finance the construction of the Theater, the local citizens, on the 28th of May, requested the creation of a new coffee tax. To be applied to all exported coffee, these additional funds would help finance the construction costs associated with this project. It was anticipated that this tax would raise approximately $75,000.

Comprised of Costa Ricans and foreigners, who had studied engineering and architecture in Europe, the design and construction of the National Theater was conducted by the Department of Public Works. Marked by periods of experimentation and error, the arduous work provided by the Costa Rican people resulted in the construction of this magnificent structure. Preoccupied by the threat of future earthquakes, the Department of Public Works initialized a technical study to ensure the structural integrity of the Theater. This study was later approved, thus on Monday June 12, 1891, the preparation of the earth began.

In spite of the initial enthusiasm surrounding the project, two years passed with very little progress being witnessed. The financing of the Theater later became suspect, which led the coffee farmers to demand that the additional tax be abolished. On May 20, 1893, president José Joaquín Rodríque nullified the $0.05 the coffee tax. The construction costs were then transferred to the entire Costa Rican population, by means of an importation tax.

The ensuing years brought with it periods of optimism and waves of criticism, some of which led to the closing of the Department of Public Works. The participation of both Costa Ricans and foreigners was indispensable ¡n the construction of the National Theater. The inauguration of the Theater, on Thursday 21 October, 1897, was accompanied by social commotion. Women dressed ¡n their most elegant attire while military men modeled their prestigious uniforms. The expectations generated by the inauguration lead to euphoria, culminating the efforts of eight long years (1890-1897) in which the Costa Rica citizens dedicated their economic, social and personal lives.

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