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  • Writer's pictureCherie Duvall

Remembering Chiqui: A Long-Time Las Huacas Resident

This past year LHCA, lost a dynamic and one-of-a-kind person, and a strong and beloved Las Huacas committee member and neighbour in Chiqui Yaniz. Chiqui and his wife Patty moved to Nosara in 1988 from Key West, Florida. Chiqui was originally from Cuba, had immigrated to Miami, and then moved to Key West in 1972. Chiqui absolutely loved to fish and at one time owned his own fishing vessel. He could often be found in the very early morning at the boca fishing-of course!

With his gregarious and no-nonsense personality, Chiqui was well loved by all who had the privilege of meeting and knowing him. He was considered a rock of our community!

I would like to share the below email that Chiqui wrote describing his first trip to Nosara. We all miss you Chiqui, and you will be forever remembered when we think of Nosara and Las Huacas.

As told by Chiqui:

In 1984 I was in Key West living with roommates, including my wife-to-be Patty. One of my roommates was a unique individual by the name of Michael Munroe. Michael, together with four other friends, went down in Hurricane Alley during a category 5 hurricane. (Look him up on Givens Life Rafts.) They are the only known survivors who have sunk in a category 5 hurricane!

Michael was also hijacked in a plane travelling between Miami and Key West. There were 30 passengers on the plane, and the hijacker picked my friend Michael to pour gasoline on his head and then demanded to be taken to Cuba.

Michael was born into money, from people called “Coca-Cola Millionaires” (families who made huge fortunes from their shares in the company, which they passed down through the generations of their families). He had been almost everywhere in the world.

Michael and I shared a mutual friend who we called Doc, as he was a medic in the Vietnam War. Michael and Doc started a conversation about Costa Rica when Doc mentioned that he just read an interesting article about Costa Rica. The writer of the article was telling the mercenaries that he had found paradise, a place called Nosara. Remember that during those years, Nicaragua was in conflict with the Sandinistas. Costa Rica, however, was at peace with the entire world.

Immediately, Michael said that he was going and that he wanted me to come with him because he did not speak any Spanish. (Lucky for me, because Spanish is my first language.) He said that he was going to buy some property. Now, you can tell that when Michael says he's going to do something, he does it. He bought and sold several properties and developed where the Las Palmas Condominiums are. He had a partner, but we're not going to talk about that.

So, he bought the airline tickets, and we flew into San Jose, Costa Rica because in those times, they hadn't even thought about an airport in Liberia. (Please remember that we made our trip in September in the height of the rainy season.)

When we landed in San Jose we were waiting for a gentleman by the name of John Fraser. First thing that I noticed was that he was in a tiny pick-up truck that only had two seats, but there were three of us. At first, I thought wow that's cool! I'll be able to see everything from the back of this truck. Little did I know that the trip in those days could easily take five or six hours. About two hours into the trip, I realized how mountainous Costa Rica was. I started pounding on the roof of the little truck commanding that I needed to be in a vehicle. I said that I didn't care if I had to buy one, I would. We ended up compromising and hired a taxicab four-wheel-drive Toyota truck. That felt a lot better, because not long after I rented the vehicle it started pouring just as we approached the Tempisque River.

The ferry ran every 45 minutes. If we missed the ferry, that would add another 45 minutes to our trip. That's exactly what happened, but only worse. The buses have priority so just when we thought that it was our turn to get onto the ferry, several buses went ahead of us. Remember, this was the old ferry. It's what's called a “hip tow”.

Little did I know that when we arrived in Nicoya that that's where the road ended. Our friend John failed to mention that to us. Remember I said earlier that it was September and in the middle of the rainy season. The road turned into a sloppy mess. And there were no bridges. I don't recall what kind of truck John Fraser had but it managed to get them home. This is after almost getting killed several times. At one point the taxi driver would not cross one of the widest rivers.

It did not take me long to realize that Costa Ricans are amazing people. Once when we thought we would never make it, along came a backhoe, and pulled us through the river. Then they passed out the hat expecting everyone to throw in their share. This, my friends, was my first trip to Costa Rica. We even had lunch one day with Eden Pastora, known as Commander Zero who led the fight against the Sandinistas, and lost.

After that trip, my friend Michael Munroe gave my wife Patty and a one-month honeymoon at John Fraser's hotel. The following September Patty and I cashed in on our honeymoon present. But since we had been living together for five years, we brought between 20 & 30 friends of ours from Key West to Costa Rica with us! It became a yearly event from 1985 until 1990. There were only four telephones in Nosara. So, we pre-arranged what we wanted our friends to bring. Mostly it was red wine, white wine, and some other goodies.

The trips did not get any easier until they paved the road from the police station in Nicoya to the gas station on the way to Samara. The last part of the trip we named “the hole” because anything could happen.

When we were in Key West planning the trips to Nosara no one paid attention to me when I said that the road could be awful. I remember the first time that I brought my wife Patty to the hotel she asked me if I had lost my mind! And she wanted to know what kind of creatures were making all that noise. Remember we arrived at three in the morning. It was the monkeys. Just like anyone else that's tired and worn-out, my wife has a tendency to get a little crabby. I can remember it like it was yesterday. It was her birthday, and I woke her up with that big kiss. As soon as she got up, I covered her eyes and walked her towards the balcony and then asked her to open her eyes. Our room was parallel to the beach. All she could see was the 7 km of beach. She gave me a big hug, and told me, “I don't know when, but we are moving here.”

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