Ciudad de Nicoya

It takes about an hour to reach Nicoya from Playa Casrillo along secondary highway 150; it is 80 kilometers from Liberia.

The heart of Nicoya is its Plaza Central, lined with mango trees. On one side of the Plaza, resembling a medieval fortress, rises the oversized Baroque facade of the massive Iglesia de San Bias. As was often the case in the history of Latin America, the conquistadors purposely built their church on the ruins of a Chorotega Indian ceremonial temple. The church symbolized the eradication of the old Indian religion and presented the natives with a new “true” symbol to take its place.

A fire completely destroyed the church in 1634. Ten years after the catastrophe, a new church had replaced it and has consoled many generations since, despite a number of small earthquakes. A museum inside the church exhibits pre-Columbian silver, as well as bronze and copper icons, and contains a total of 160 religious items. The many pictures of saints, with locks of hair added by faithful worshipers, and the devotional items presented in gratitude for answered prayers from sick and suffering parishioners are also interesting. These often take the form of notes attached to the pictures, vivid testimony to the enduring strength of the Catholic faith in Costa Rica.

Nicoya, the oldest colonial city of Costa Rica, was founded in 1544 and named San Blas de Nicoya, in honor of Chorotega Chief Nicoya. The Indian chief was heartily greeted by Spanish conquistador Gil Gonzalez Davila as his tribal brother. Today the few surviving descendants of the Chorotegas live on the Matambu Reservation.

The little town of Nicoya was once the Chorotega Indian capital. The Chorotegas were the largest Indian group in Costa Rica at the time of the Spanish conquest.

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