Saturday 9 December 2023

Today 50 years ago: Government closed brothels in San José

The date was August 26, 1971

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TODAY COSTA RICA – Prostitution in Costa Rica is legal. Nevertheless, many of the activities surrounding it are illegal, as the law forbids promoting or facilitating the prostitution of another, and therefore pimping, brothels or prostitution rings are illegal.

Archive image of sites inspected by public institutions in 1971. Photo Rafael Pacheco Granados / La Nacion

Having said that, it does not mean that Costa Rica and its principal city (capital) is void of prostitutes or brothers, more commonly called “massager parlors”, operating under the “pension” (short term room rental) licenses.

The clean up of prostitution and brothers in San Jose has a long history. Following is the original text published by La Nación on August 26, 1971, of the government action to shutter brothels in the city.

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“With instructions from Dr. José Luis Orlich, Minister of Public Health; Carlos Manuel Vicente, Minister of the Interior and Police; Lic. Matilde Marín, governor of San José, and of the local municipality, began yesterday the campaign in favor of the sanitary improvement of the businesses that operate in the capital city.

“It began in the area adjacent to the Pavas car terminal, where there is a ring of brothels and inns that are considered ‘the worst in San José’.

“In the first business that was visited, there were traces that for the first time, perhaps in many years, the floor had been cleaned with a mop or broom. However, the bad smell, the flies and the mosquitoes discovered their true cleanliness conditions.

“Authorities gave orders to ‘put this business in order in 24 hours or we will close it’. In a chinchorro (hole in the wall best description), a man was caught with two minors: one seven and the other thirteen or fourteen years old.

“In these places, the rooms are a series of badly placed boards, a door and, if the case requires it, two or three zinc sheets supported by stones or sticks that exert pressure on them (for a roof).

“Some zaguanes (hallways) resemble labyrinths. The worst: filth and uncleanliness.

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“It is impossible for a human being to live there!”

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