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Grecia (Alajuela, Costa Rica)

Canton de Grecia

Last modified: 2021-08-25 by rob raeside
Keywords: alajuela | grecia |
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image posted by Vanja Poposki in I Love Flags, 23 June 2012

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The municipality of Grecia (78,898 inhabitants in 2011; 39,572 ha), located 20 km north-west of Alajuela, forms Canton No. 3 of Alajuela Province. The canton is divided in eight districts: Grecia, San Isidro, San José, San Roque, Tacares, Río Cuarto, Puente de Piedra, and Bolívar.
Grecia was awarded on 21 August 1989 the title of "Cleanest Town in Latin America", granted by the Latin American Chapter of the International Union of Municipalities.

The origin of the name of Grecia is disputed, although credited to Juan Lara Zamora. A first theory claims that the villagers Lara Zamora proposed in 1826 to name the village as a tribute the Greece, which had obtained its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1821. A second, less romantic theory, claims that Lara Zamora owned an estate named Grecia, whose name was subsequently adopted to designate the village.

Grecia was established, as a village, by Decree No. 69, adopted on 27 April 1838 in Heredia by the Constituent Assembly. This was the result of petition No. 21 sent on 26 October 1828 by the villagers to the municipality of San Juan Nepomuceno de Alajuela. At the time, Grecia counted 1,100 inhabitants living in 176 houses. The villagers were allowed to erect a church, which proved to be very difficult. A small, straw-roofed and walled oratory was built in 1839, replaced in 1847 by another, wooden-walled and straw-roofed chapel. The sanctuary, dedicated to Our Lady of the Mercy, was eventually consecrated on 22 January 1847. The parish was officially registered on 8 August 1854, but the chapel was partially destroyed by a blaze in 1860. The masoned church erected in 1864 was suppressed in 1888 by an earthquake. This last event convinced the villagers to rebuild the church with a metallic structure that would better resist natural damages. With the support of Bishop Bernardo Augusto Thiel, the steel skeleton of the new church was ordered in 1890 at a Belgian steelwork. Steel elements shipped to Puerto Limón in October 1892 were transported by train to Alajuela, and, finally, by oxen-driven carts to Grecia. The building of the church was completed in 1906, for a cost of 160,000 golden pesos.

Coffee cultivation was initiated between 1826 and 183, attracting even more colonists from Barva, Santo Domingo and Heredia. Income obtained from coffee allowed the farmers to import from Manchester or the USA modern hydraulic presses required to process sugarcane. The Victoria press established in Grecia in 1886 /1887 was the most modern, and for long the only one in Costa Rica. The Fernández Hidalgo family purchased the press in New York and hired Belisario Zayas-Bazán Agüero, a Cuban expert in mechanics established in Costa Rica, who had learned the modern techniques of cane processing in Louisiana and Cuba. In 1906, Celina Fernández Brealy, the heiress of the Fernández Hidalgo family, sold the estate to the company owned by Guillermo Niehaus, a colonist of German origin. The estate was confiscated in 1941 by the government as a measure of retaliation against Germany. The Victoria Industrial and Agricultural Cooperative was established on 12 October 1943 by 20 members; the cooperative, still owner of the estate, is now the oldest in the country, with 2,925 members.

The canton of Grecia was established on 24 July 1867, then including the territories of Naranja, Alfaro Ruiz, Valverde Vega and San Carlos. In 1882, the canton was increased with a huge territory (4,000 sq. km) known as the Guatuso Plain, made of the today's territories of Upala, Los Chiles and Guatuso. With an area of 7,40 sq. km the canton of Grecia formed than 80% of the Alajuela Province. Grecia was granted the title of "ciudad" on 6 August 1903. - History of Grecia by Luis Castrillo, municipal website

The flag of Grecia is horizontally divided blue-white-green (1:2:1). Right yellow stars are placed on two rows of four each in the white stripe. Along the hoist is placed a white trapezoid charged with a yellow triangle bordered in blue. The flag was adopted on 10 December 2012 by the Municipal Council (5 approved it while 2 rejected it), in spite of the opposition of Mayor Harry González. The Mayor complained that the citizens had not been associated to the selection process, which had started 18 months before. He added that he was not aware of any other flag selected without a public contest. However, the Mayor accepted the majority's decision and did not veto the proposal. - Radio 16, 10 November 2012

The selection process was launched by the Municipal Councillor Jorge Arturo Gómez Valverde, also President of the Culture Commission who had noticed that the traditional blue-white flag was in very bad state. Dr. Maroto, commissioned to draft the new flag, found out that no agreement on an official flag could have been obtained for the last 40 years. It was decided to open a public contest to get a new flag that would keep the blue and white colours; in spite of several visits to schools and other institutes to promote the project, no proposal was ever submitted within 18 months. Accordingly, the Municipal Council decided to adopt Dr. Maroto's proposal.

The upper, celestial blue stripe represents the peaceful and eternal sky, God, tranquility and friendship. The middle, white stripe represents peace, transparency and spirituality. The eight stars represent the eight districts forming the canton; the stars are five-pointed to represent the five continents. Furthermore, the stars are characterized by the Pythagorean societies as the gate to higher science. Golden yellow is a symbol of power, purity, abundance, resources, strength. The two white arms surrounding the triangle represent love that preserves the three values, symbolized by the triangle: liberty, progress and solidarity. As well as the pyramids in East and everywhere in the world, the triangles preserve spirituality, and even more. The lower, lemon green stripe represents two historical crops: sugarcane and coffee, and, more generally, the natural environment. Green is a symbol of leisure and freshness. The triangles represent historical elements, such as humanism, and three equal, linear concepts linked to spiritual values: body, mind and spirit. The bigger, blue triangle, represents the son of God made a human being. The smaller, lower triangle represents the woman, protected by God in the Holy Ghost. The eight stars are of the same colour and blood as the woman. The triangle are elements of the "icon" of the municipality, I guess, the parish church. - Text by Jorge Arturo Gómez Valverde - website of the Western Federation of Alajuela Municipalities
Ivan Sache, 23 July 2014

It is mentioned that the "traditional blue-white flag" had been in a very bad state. Do we know this blue-white flag?
Is that description official, as I didn't see it at Radio16, and the white stripe in our image doesn't seem quite that wide. There's also no mention of the staggering of the stars.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 20 August 2014

Coat of Arms

image contributed by Fred Drews, 23 March 2006