Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Robert A. Stevenson
The experience in San Jos� was, indeed, very interesting because I got a variety of work. I started out in the economic section and did the economic reporting, and then did labor reporting and was the first person to make contact with Luis Alberto Monge [Alvarez], who at about age 22 was the director of the Catholic Labor Union and later, of course, President of Costa Rica in recent times.
Then I was assigned to the Consular office and had experience doing consular work there. The area was full of flotsam and jetsam left over from World War II, interesting characters, I must say. Of course, while I was there in 1948, Pepe [Jos�] Figueres started his revolution, successful, and threw out a government that was about to be taken over by the communists. There's not much doubt about this point in my mind, having personally heard the communist deputy chortling over the loud speaker system about how the Congress had annulled the elections and the Colderon Guardia elements were about to take over. But Figueres started his revolution and it was successful. I heard more shooting then than I ever did in World War II.
Q: What was the situation there? Was the embassy a bystander involved in this? What were we doing?
STEVENSON: The embassy, (in my innocence as a brand-new 3rd secretary and vice consul) I thought was not involved, but LTC Jimmy Hughes, who was our Army attach�, disappeared for four or five days and we learned later that he'd been giving military advice to Figueres. So in that sense, there was certainly some informal involvement. Our ambassador was Nathaniel P. Davis, a very sharp pro who had been a prisoner of war in the Philippines under the Japanese. I remember how my friend, Given Parsons, and I shook our heads and had our eyes opened when we were told not to worry about Jimmy Hughes. (Chuckles) And we didn't. Figueres' victory was very popular, no doubt about it. He had the overwhelming support of the people of the country.
When the government fled, there were three days of anarchy in the city, with small groups of what we called mariachis, young country boys from Guanacaste, who had been armed by the Picado government with .44-caliber Remingtons, single-shot Remington rifles with a soft-lead bullet as big as your thumb, and they marched around the town after the government had left, and fired these guns from time to time. Our embassy then was on the third floor of the Hotel Costa Rica.