QCOSTARICA – Everyone in Costa Rica (and many outside the country) know the “platina”, the bridge over the Virilla river on the autopista General Cañas, and the ongoing problems with its repair that began in 2009.

But few, if any, look down, under the bridge. And if you did, what would find? reporter Ana Beatriz Fernández González did on Friday (April 10) and what she found were the “sentinels” (centinelas in Spanish), a sextet of men who watch over the bridge and the platina (metal plate) itself.

They are “guachimen” (watchmen) working in 12 hour shifts that stay under the bridge, hearing the constant coming and going of vehicles, feel the vibration (cimbra) of the structure, brave the strong winds, the rain and the cold of the night, to report of any problems and ward off vandalism.

Two of the centinelas willing to talk to the reporter said they laugh when asked about their work, taking care of a structure that regularly is in the eye of the hurricane of news reports, and a source of stress for the thousands of drivers crossing the bridge daily.

Both say they take their work seriously, earning a living from the absurdity of governments and construction companies unable to solve the basic issue of repairing the structure. The centinelas work for the company, Control Monitoreo, hired by the government to monitor the bridge.

The centinelas say the monotony of their work is regularly interrupted by helping a driver with vehicle problems, an accident or if and when the platina (metal plate) itself breaks down, as it did again Easter Sunday.

“12 horas emplatinados” (12 hours with the platina up our …), jokes Kenneth (26), who worked as a baker for 13 years before taking on the job of guachiman some four months ago. His partner, Alejandro (22), has been on the job only 15 days, giving up his job of watching cars after dropping out of school, saving up to formally get a vocational education in security work.

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Asked how long they see working under the bridge, neither can give an answer, but are confident it will be for some time as the repairs have been ongoing for the last six years.

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