Altos de Ochomogo, Costa Rica


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First Years...

José María Figueres OlsenOn December 24, 1954, while my mother was preparing Christmas Eve dinner, I was born. At home, my parents always had a deep love and respect for our country, my brothers and I grew up along with these feelings. My first memories take me back to Finca La Lucha, which my father arrived in 1927; since then, this property has been part of Figueres history.

Our life on the farm was simple and pleasant. During my first years of life my father was Costa Rica's President, and at home, while we were playing, Doña Karen and Don Pepe dedicated themselves to state affairs. In La Lucha I began my formal studies at the farm school, Cecilia Orlich Figueres, named to remember a cousin sister who had died years ago.

My classmates were the sons and daughters of those who worked in the agro-industrial development that my father had established in La Lucha over time. The football field was in front of the school, that became my favorite sport, which I would resume years later at West Point Military Academy. I also remember many afternoons after school playing tops and marbles with my friends, yes, the weekends were dedicated to crocket, which my father liked so much.

In La Lucha I learned to ride in the mountains, with my first horse Cholo and my dog ​​Buenamigo, a beautiful boxer; I developed a special affection and respect for animals. The house of La Lucha in which we lived, built after 1948 Civil War, which began there on the farm, became our ' life classroom', my parents gave us daily lessons about music, art and coexistence; for example, at lunchtime we could serve the amount we wanted, but we couldn't leave anything because Don Pepe and Doña Karen told us that many people around the world had nothing to eat.

José María Figueres OlsenThe first signs that show me that Don Pepe and Doña Karen fulfilled other obligations, besides parenting came to us in La Lucha, as different national and international political figures visited our house. In one of the house basements, an amateur radio station, TI2IG, operated by my father in which he communicated with the region revolutionary movements and conspired to overthrow current dictatorships, such as Pérez Jiménez (Venezuela), Batista (Cuba ), Trujillo (Dominican Republic) and Somoza (Nicaragua).

There were a couple of basements from time to time were filled with weapons of all kinds, and then all of the suddent they all disappeared to supply the different movements that fought against dictatorships. The last major operation was in 1979, supporting the war that finally overthrew Somoza.

The meetings between Costa Ricans and foreigners who came to talk with my parents were frequent. In many of these conversations we were allowed to participate, without saying a word. But nevertheless; After the meetings, there were many questions to my parents, who during the dinner had the patience to answer.

They were difficult times for national and international politics, during Cold War and with Don Pepe revolutionary personality, we were always in constant danger, therefore, on some occasions I remember seeing Moncho, Chuta, Juan and other workers, guard the Casona with M-1 rifles. We even threw ourselves on the floor  a couple of times because somebody shoot at the house.

School and High School

José María Figueres OlsenBy the beginning of the 1970 political campaign in which my father was again a candidate for the Costa Rica's President position, we had already moved to live in a rental house in Barrio Escalante. Already in San José, I attended some years at Humboldt College and graduated from Lincoln, so I know a little German and I speak fluent English, which is also my mother's native language. Today I would have also wanted to have studied in a Chinese school. During my last year of school I decided to study in West Point, United States. After Don Pepe abolished the army in 1948, my interest in entering a military academy seemed a bit contradictory; However, my parents respected my decision.

My last years of high school coincided with the first years of Don Pepe second government, and I perceived very clearly that living under my father's shadow will not allow me to have a normal life. What I mean by this is that without knowing me, many people projected on me the love they had for my father and some others rejection. Therefore, I decided to look for an opportunity to study outside Costa Rica. When I was about to decide where to study, Don Pepe looked for me to talk about my future and asked if I wanted to get a university degree or if I wanted to become a cultured person. Confused by the question, I replied that if it was not the same, he said no way. For Don Pepe, a university degree was not synonymous of being educated. According to my father, if I wanted a degree, I had to go to the university, but if I wanted to cultivate my spirit and develop myself as a person with different skills to face life, I had to read at least one book a week. At that moment my mother intervened and advise me to do both.

That's how I looked for a scholarship to study at West Point, since my cousin José Antonio Urgelles was about to graduate from the military academy and had positively spoken about this place. I fulfilled all scolarships procedures and was accepted. It was a unique experience. If I had to make the decision again, I would do it without any doubt. That's where my military discipline comes from, but more important than that, it inspires a fighting attitude towards life, no matter how hard or difficult the circumstances are, it reinforces the values ​​of leadership and commitment to the causes I believed. This life experience left me with deep teachings that have helped me throughout life.

When things go wrong, you have to fight ... when things go well, you have to start new battles.

José Figueres Ferrer