Who appears on our 20,000 colones banknote? Carmen Lira

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In 1888, one of the most vivid examples of struggle and tenacity in national history, María Isabel Carvajal, Carmen Lyra, was born here in this house. A woman like few others, who without hesitation faced the whirlwinds of her time, helping the marginalized, fighting for the social and political demands of her people that she loved and love so much, reciprocal and passionate love.

He won a scholarship to further his studies in preschool education at the Sorbonne University in Paris. Upon her return, she founded and directed the nursery school in the Metálico building, the first educational center with this focus in Costa Rica, serving mainly low-income children. She was also the first teacher in the Chair of children’s literature at the Normal School. Carmen Lyra left a vitally important legacy to the national culture. She is the initiator of children’s narrative in Costa Rica and contributed to promoting the social realist trend in literature.

From a very young age, her sensitivity and social concerns led her to participate in various social and political activities. Her fight without quarter against the Government of the Tinoco Brothers was the breeding ground for what will be her combative life. With extraordinary courage and vehemence, she led the students, women and workers until she destabilized the Tinocos and their fierce dictatorial state.

After those events, Carmen Lyra would undergo a metamorphosis, she was already an icon for her people, and from now on, she will fight with all her being against injustices as a fundamental part of the popular movements of the first half of the 20th century. She dedicates herself entirely to political action, standing out as a journalist exposing ideas and as an able leader of the Costa Rican communist party.

In the field of writing, she began at the hand of her friend Joaquín García Monge, who defines her thus in the American Repertoire: “Carmen Lyra, with her modest humanity, becomes the symbol of the freedom of her country. It seemed It is a lie that in a body so small and fragile it could house a soul of a woman so sweet and great at the same time. The teacher who had made love and beauty her gospel to give herself to the childhood of her homeland, the writer of Uncle Silvestre, full of humanity and optimism, she was predestined to also be the embodiment of the civic courage of the uncompromising republican spirit of the people of Costa Rica. “

Write several stories and short stories for textbooks and publish some stories of deep commitment to the most deprived people. However, the unforgettable work that immortalized her forever is “The stories of my tía Panchita”, considered a classic in Costa Rican literature. She died in Mexico in 1949, where she had been in exile since the end of the 1948 war, being recognized as Benemérita de la Patria in July 1976.

Script: Osvaldo Valerín Ramírez.​
Taken from Banco Central de Costa Rica.


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