Consider today as a part of the 2011 Semana Santa

This was the scene April 5, 2009, when the faithful walked in procession on Palm Sunday. File Photo: A.M. Costa Rica

Semana Santa already is well underway as those who were lucky enough to get off work today are probably headed to a beach somewhere.

The pace of life in Costa Rica has slowed. The central government and the courts will have just essential services available next week. Still the police forces will be on the prowl, and the Defensoría de los Habitantes will remain open in its central office in Barrio México to receive complaints Monday through Wednesday.

The reception center for the Judicial Investigating Organization will be open 24-hours a day to receive reports of crimes.

The religious aspects of the holiday swing into high gear Sunday as Catholic faithful celebrate Palm Sunday, signifying the triumphal arrival of Jesus Christ to Jerusalem.

There will be a highly photogenic procession in San José at 9:30 a.m. Sunday from the La Merced Church to the Catedral Metropolitana. Elsewhere in the country there will be similar events.

The Escazú Christian Fellowship will be more low-keyed with a 5 p.m. Sunday service followed by what is being called a soup and bread fellowship meal at the International Baptist Church in Guachepelín.

Although a new law allows the sale of alcohol during election periods when such drinks used to be prohibited, the dry law still is in effect for Holy Thursday and Good Friday.

Fuerza Pública officers will begin closing off alcohol sections in stores and supermarkets Wednesday night. They will place seals on refrigerators and liquor cabinets in restaurants, and they will place seals on the doors of businesses that sell mostly beer and alcohol.

Operators of tourist establishments outside the Central Valley usually have creative ways of getting around this prohibition. For the working-class Tico, there are the underground bars in every barrio.

Alcohol again will be on sale Saturday morning, although most supermarkets and retail outlets will be working a short day then.

Thursday and Friday are legal holidays, and workers are expecting to have them off.

Friday and Saturday nights also are the traditional times for the annual Quema de Judas where the apostle who turned in Jesus Christ is denigrated. Effigies are set afire.

The problem is that in San José, Alajuela and Heredia such activities have degenerated into wholesale vandalism in previous years with cars burned and lawlessness.

The Fuerza Pública said it will be reinforcing trouble spots to keep a lid on the young vandals.

The period is not a holiday for the 3,100 officers in the Security ministry or the traffic police, who will be setting up checkpoints, mainly for drunk drivers. Cruz Roja also will be maintaining rest stops on the principal highways.

Immigration police and workers will be busy at both borders because of the increased holiday traffic.

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