Dressed in white gloves, pants in the style of the Prince of Wales and a cap with a gold Costa Rica coat of arms, tailored by Marlow White, who has been making uniforms for the US Armed Forces since 1879, is the Guardia de Honor (Honour Guard of Costa Rica).
The special unit is made of 40 men and women of the Fuerza Pública (police) that have been for the past decade the special escort of the President at state activities.
They are like any other Costa Rican police officer, assigned to a police station and patrol the streets regularly. The only difference is that they transform to perform their Honour escort duties.
However, the unit has never been as coordinated and well dressed as today. It was just last February 18th, when six officers walked down the aisle of the Catedral Metropolitana (downtown San José Cathedral) with the casket of former Supreme Court president, Luis Paulino Mora, with the coffin high over their shoulders, well dressed, left-foot-right-foot, but missing the mechanical harmony.
Eight months later, their dress style and action is something else.
On Friday, at Casa Presidencial, during the presentation of credentials of two new ambassadors (Japan and Ireland), the members of the Honour Guard, walked two by two, saluting Presidenta Chinchilla, more in tune with the well known style of the British Queen’s Guard.
Now, their movements are now coordinated and graceful. That because they received training by Queen Elizabeth II bodyguards.
The change came about from an idea by Marco Vinicio Vargas, head of protocol at the Foreign Ministry, to renovate the Guard. In coordination with the Ministry of Security, the diplomatic effort was to achieve their goal.
“We wanted beautiful uniforms, that had no military connotations”, Vargas told La Nacion.
What did all this cost? Well, nothing on the part of the state, just the time of the officers to undergo the training and donations from the the Qatar embassy that donated the uniforms and the British embassy the protocol training.
John Paul Riley and Bryan Mannion, two of the British Queen’s Guards, spent two weeks in Costa Rica last March, training the members of Costa Rica’s Honour Guard for such activities as state funerals, presidential visits, etc.
On April 25, the officers of the special unit, for the first time put on their white gloves.
Today, on September 15, Costa Ricans will get another chance to see this special police unit posted in front of the National Monument, escorting the Presidenta in Independence Day protocol.
Tomorrow, the members of this elite unit will back on the streets, fulfilling their double life of Honour Escort and urban patrol, alternative their knee-high boots de rigueur for the patent leather shoes of the street cop.
Source: La Nacion