As in any culture, the stories passed from generation to generation as well as faith in magic lend insight into traditions.  While we may feel sophisticated and above such beliefs, reviewing such tales provides insight into Costa Rican mindsets.

Take Escazú, an upscale enclave of architectural sophistication and urban chic including residences of the U.S. and British Ambassadors, foreigners from North and South Americas and Europe; and trendy bars and restaurants. It continues to grow expeditiously despite its fame as the “City of Witches”.  Confirming its reputation, the municipal flag and the town seal displayed on the Town Hall each feature a broom-mounted witch, and the local soccer team is named Las Brujas (The Witches). In addition, can you believe that cautious locals reputedly still secretly consult modern day hexes before making important decisions in their lives, careers, or relationships?Witch

Even in the 21st Century, Escazú remains the sleepy, mysterious resting place for pre-Columbian Indian tribes and the legendary meeting place for magical creatures.  Plants with certain ‘powers’ and ‘magical’ herbs grow in gardens.  Modern day Brujas allegedly still use them to make a man love a woman, cast spells or cure illnesses. In fact, practically all of the town’s history links with legend.  Native Costa Ricans remain proud of their history, restored edifices, and scenery.

One Escazú tale includes the story about the unfortunate, but enigmatic Tulevieja (literally, old veiled hat), probably the area’s most celebrated ghostly bruja. Often described as a hideous half-naked hag sometimes with a chicken’s body, she reportedly roams the night-darkened calles (streets) and peers through windows in search of the illegitimate baby she starved to death. Allegedly stronger than twenty horses, no one succeeded in catching the Tulevieja.

However, according to a more recent version, among those still spooking naughty children into more acceptable behavior, a young Escazú daredevil, Liborio Constantino de Jesús Fernández Delgado (nicknamed don Tuto Yoyo), who lived one hundred years (1888-1988), allegedly tied her up with a magic vine that grows in the Escazú hills by the enchanted Piedra Blanca (White Stone). It is believed that he tamed the crone and paraded her around Escazú like a pet dog.

Over the years Tulevieja, along with Don Tuto Yoyo, had faded into the dim recesses of people’s minds until a group of archeologists excavating near the Piedra Blanca unearthed a petrified segment of vine. Some feel this has lent creditability to the myth once again and that the mysticism surrounding the town adds a bit of charm to it.

Apparently exactly how many people fall victim to scams and cons by “brujeria” (witchcraft) throughout Costa Rica is unknown.  As a result, the sub-director del Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ) called on legislators to close the loophole in the law that allows the practice of brujeria , including the practice of placing ads in the media that scam the public.

Scan the pages of the local newspapers in Costa Rica and you will find ads offering services from increasing sexual potency, recovering a lost love, to winning the lottery.  Often a “brujo/bruja” will ask for a picture of a loved one inferring that magic can bring back that lost love.

In the barrios, a report indicated, tarot card and palm readings cost only a few thousand colones and although no signs advertise the service on the door, everyone one knows where the witch performs the “magic”.  Some offer services of cleansing one’s home, office or business of evil spirits; others use candles, incense and incantations.  The darker side of the magic, where the brujo/bruja allegedly places a curse or conjures up spells, is rarely announced in the ads.

Helen Dunn Frame
Magic in Costa Rica comes under different names that include ‘sacerdotisas’, shaman”, ‘diosas de la santería haitiana’, and ‘santeros cubanos’.

Escazú doesn’t stand alone. While the magical rituals vary with the times, witches with large followings practice their craft in other areas of the country.

Blog excerpted from chapter in soon to be published “Doctors, Dogs, and Pura Vida, Glimpses of Life in Costa Rica” by Helen Dunn Frame, Copyrighted 2011

Tales from other locales are detailed in the rest of the chapter in Doctors . . . contact Helen  at with an email address to be notified when the book has been published.

Helen Dunn Frame, an accomplished businesswoman whose professional writing skills and love of travel culminated in the mystery GREEK GHOSTS, has written articles, columns, and edited newsletters and other author’s books. Living abroad and traveling extensively in 50 countries has given Helen an appreciation for the value of diverse cultures.  Website