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 family and for our country. My brothers and I grew up in this environment. My first memories take me back to Finca La Lucha, which my father established in 1927 as an agroindustrial complex. Since then, this property has been part of the Figueres history.

Our life on the farm was simple and pleasant. During my first years my father was elected President of Costa Rica. At home, my mother and father dedicated themselves to the family and to state affairs. In La Lucha I began my formal studies at the farm school, Cecilia Orlich Figueres, named in the memory of a cousin who perish in an accident.

My classmates were the sons and daughters of those who worked in the agroindustrial complex that my father had established in La Lucha over time. The football field was in front of the school. We played intensely which I would resume years later on the soccer team of the West Point Military Academy. I also remember many afternoons after school playing tops and marbles with my friends. The weekends were dedicated to crocket, which my father liked so much.

In La Lucha I learned to horseback ride. My first horse was named Cholo and my dog ​​Buenamigo, a beautiful boxer, always accommpany us. I developed a special affection and respect for animals. The house in which we lived, built after the 1948 Civil War, which started at La Lucha, became our ' life classroom'. My parents introduced us to classical music, art and strong family values. At every meal we were not allowed to leave any food in our plate as a part of learning that we could not waste in a world with so much hunger and need.

José María Figueres OlsenDiverse national and international political figures frequently visited our home. The conversations were mainly about strengthening democracy. In the basement of the house my  father operated an amateur radio station, TI2IG, with which he communicated with the region helping revolutionary movements to overthrow dictatorships, such as those of Pérez Jiménez (Venezuela), Batista (Cuba ), Trujillo (Dominican Republic) and Somoza (Nicaragua).

At the house there were also a couple of basements that from time to time were filled with weapons of all kinds. These caches or arms were them sent to different revolutionary movements in the region that were fighting againts  dictatorships. The last major operation of this kind took place in 1979 to support the forces fighting to overthrow Somoza.

In many of the conversations between my parents and visitros, we were allowed to particiapte. The only condition was that we not interrupt the conversation. Needless to say, many dinner time convesations were filled with the questions we asked our parents about what we've heard during the day.

As a consequence of many of these activities, my father became a target of several dictatorships. It was frequent to see some of the workers of the farm, such as Moncho, Chuta and Juan become overnight guards of the family home.

School and High School

José María Figueres OlsenTowards the beginning of the 1970 political campaign in which my father was again a candidate to the Presidency, we moved to live in a rented house in Barrio Escalante. In San José, I attended the Humboldt College and later the Lincoln high school, as my parents wanted us to become fluent in several languages. In retrospect, I wish I had studied chinese.

My last years in high school coincided with the first years of my father's second government. I perceived very clearly that studying in a Costa Rican University and living a normal student life will be a challenge. I therefore decided to look for an opportunity to study abroad. When I was about to decide where to study, my father talked to me about my future and asked if I wanted to get a university degree or if I wanted to become a cultured person. I was confuse by the question. My father went on to say that a university degree was not synonymous with being a cultured person. In simple language he put forward the argument that if I wanted a degree, I should attend a university. However, I wanted to cultivate my spirit and develop myself as a person with different skills to face life, I should read one book every week.

The consequence of these reflections let me to looked for a scholarship to study outside Costa Rica. That is how I arrived to study at West Point, the US military academy. It was a unique experience. If I had to take the decision again, I would do it without any doubt. Beyond the discipline of military training and the rigor of academic studies, West Point installed in me a way of life, an a attitude to always persevere and a purpose to live a meaningful life.

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

José Figueres Ferrer