To the editor:

I recently got word my partner in Costa Rica’s mom has died from complications related to an underlying COVID-19 infection.

At the risk of being a tad gruesome, she, over a period of days, literally drowned in her own lung fluids, gasping for breath, in isolation.

Neither her husband of 60-plus years nor her children were allowed to sit with her, hold her hand, or tell her they loved her.

They could only stand outside the isolation unit and watch through the glass as she drew increasingly labored breath after labored breath — until she was gone.

As I make final preparations to return to Costa Rica next month, after an 18-month COVID-19 forced hiatus, I am trying to imagine Puerto Viejo without Delfina Leon-Chang-Salazar.

To say she was a force to be reckoned with is an understatement.

For decades, she strong-armed retail toy stores in the large port city of Limon to donate to the Christmas toy drive she organized on behalf of Bri Bri Indian children, many of whom still live deep in the Talamanca rainforest and have little contact with the world beyond their home villages.

Raising her own children in Puerto Viejo because the family business is located there, it bothered her she had to send them to boarding school in San Jose after elementary school because there was no decent secondary school in the area.

So, about 35 years ago, Delfina founded a high school that now graduates nearly 200 students a year, many of whom go on to technical training schools or university.

Delfina also started, and provided the seed money for, a program based in the town’s elementary schools that brought social workers and other clinicians in to help kids dealing with issues related to both substance and domestic abuse in the home.

And, being the devout Catholic that she was, Delfina sent several American expat “real estate professionals” into near psychosis when she donated one of the town’s prime oceanfront lots that she owned to the Church.

The chapel that now sits on that spot overlooking the Caribbean will, undoubtedly, be filled to overflowing next week, not just with local admirers of Delfina, but with people from all over Costa Rica and, indeed, the world.

Her gentle strength, kindness, and philanthropy touched the lives of many, many people.

She will be sorely missed.

As sad as I am about Delfina’s passing, it has put me in touch with how angry I am, perhaps frustrated is a better word, that so many Americans continue to deny and ignore science, epidemiological reality, and sound public health policies and practices.

Instead, they buy into bizarre, paranoid, Q-Anon-style conspiracy theories, and outright lies that continue to endanger the public health.

They listen to charlatans, like Tucker Carlson on Fox News, who equate vaccination mandates with tyranny, while Tucker neglects to tell his viewers he was mandated by his boss, Rupert Murdoch, to get vaccinated if he wanted to keep his job as one of Fox’s most dishonest and dangerous propagandists.

As I am writing this, the states of Maine and Vermont are experiencing a significant spike in new infections — 200 or more per day.

One third of those new daily infections are occurring in school aged children.

Yet, back in July, a leader in the local anti-vax, anti- mask movement here on Cape Ann wrote a letter to the editor in which she insisted children should not be vaccinated because they were NOT at risk of infection.

Now, I have never had much patience for dishonesty, fear mongering, willful ignorance, or plain old fashioned stupidity, but now that I have lost someone I loved to this very real pandemic, I have no patience for such things, whether they are expressed on national television or on the opinion page of our local newspaper — NO patience whatsoever.

Vaya con Dios, Delfina. Descanza en paz.

Michael Cook


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