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San Lucas Island

By: Adam Myers

San Lucas Island is located off the Pacific shore of Costa Rica. It was formerly an island prison, but nowadays it is National Park. It has an area of approximately 4.6 km?.
San Lucas Island is an important part of Costa Rica's penitentiary history and has a big historical value, since it was a big criminal center in the country.

It was founded by the dictator Tom?s Miguel Guardia Guti?rrez. Being sent to San Lucas Island was terrible since inmates lives were short and often spent in torture. San Lucas was known for the injustices and tortures that took place there.

The island served as a prison for over 100 years, from 1873 to 1991. It was located on an area of 50 acres, and was built on the island to keep the criminals away from the people. The island is approximately 8 km. over water away from Puntarenas.

There are many horror stories about the awful conditions in which the prisoners lived and died. The stories are usually about the difficult situations they endured, such as diseases, hunger and escape attempts. There is also graffiti on the walls which expresses faith, sadness, expectations and frustrations of the prisoners.
The buildings of the island are considered cultural heritage sites. The buildings include a historic dock, which is still in use, a church, a medical building, temporary holding cells, a three story main office, a large concrete disc used to hold a water tank, and water pumps. Visitors can see prison cells of varying security levels depending on the prisoners' crimes.

Jos? Le?n S?nchez, a prisoner of the island, wrote a book called "La Isla de Hombres Solos," which was translated into English as "The Island of Lonely Men". The book is based on his time in the prison at San Lucas Island. Le?n always said that he was unfairly imprisoned for a robbery he didn't commit.

Now San Lucas is a National Wildlife Shelter, populated by monkeys, white tail deer, many bats, non poisonous snakes, iguanas, turkeys, skunks and anteaters.

There are a number of troops of Howler monkeys, as well as deer, raccoons, and other mammals. There are a number of bats, at least 8 different species, many of which live in or close to the old prison buildings.

Now San Lucas Island is a tourist destination, with several companies offering charters to the island. The tours usually have bilingual guides that will explain some of the history and point out areas of interest.

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