May 07 2014

Remembering Jo Stuart

We are deeply saddened by the passing of our friend, Jo Stuart, last Thursday, April 24th, 2014. Her death was reported the following morning by A.M. Costa Rica in an article entitled, “A.M. Costa Rica columnist dies in the city she loved.” Jo is perhaps best known for her column, “Butterfly in the City: Musings from San José.” which was published every Friday in A.M. Costa Rica. We, however, were lucky enough to know her as a friend.

Jo championed our cause & mentioned us periodically in her column. We also championed her and, with her blessing, put many excerpts of her book, “Butterfly in the City” in our newsletters to boost it’s sales, but also because we agreed with her on so many topics. She was an inspiration for us, about how to live a simpler life. She “walked the walk.”

We’ve been to her apartment on multiple occasions. It was only $400 per month unfurnished & her simple furniture was like that of a student. After all, her last regular job was that of a house mother at San Jose State University in San Jose California. How prophetic! She’d been to our place, too, in San Ramón, and also gave a talk for the Community Action Alliance about her favorite topic: San José, Costa Rica. Jo also made an incredibly decadent hot fudge sauce which Paul would often eat by the spoonful, right out of the jar!

Jo, we will miss you. But we are grateful that we can still hear your voice each time we read your book or one of your past columns. Thank you for sharing your love of this beautiful country and it’s capital city, for sharing your observations and insights, your humor and zest for life. You saw the beauty in common, every day things and helped us to do the same. We are proud to have known you.

Here’s a review we did of her book a couple of years ago:

Butterfly in the City by Jo Stuart is one of the best books I’ve read on Costa Rica. As the name implies, she is the “butterfly” and the city is San Jose, Costa Rica.

Most other books on Costa Rica are guide books about its natural beauty – waterfalls, beaches, flora and fauna – with recommendations on hotels, B&Bs, hostels, attractions, and restaurants. But this book is about how to adapt to the culture. It’s the story of Jo Stuart’s day-to-day life, of her city, and of the people of Costa Rica as seen through her eyes — the eyes of a single woman who wanted a new experience. She retired and settled here over 20 years ago, in the early 1990’s. She had been looking for a place where she could live simply, within a limited budget, and without “owning anything.” After a couple of visits, she chose Costa Rica, feeling comfortable in a country without an army, and at home with the culture and people.

Jo Stuart Loved San Jose’s Pedestrian Boulevards

She tells the story ofJosafinos(residents of San Jose) in particular, and Costa Ricans (also called Ticos) in general. I consider it a must-read for anyone living in Costa Rica or considering moving here, as it provides great insight into the Tico personality, way of life, values, attitudes, how to adapt, and provides many other interesting and helpful tidbits of information.

I always thought of this book as an ethnography of sorts, perhaps an inadvertent one, but one nevertheless. It’s practically a reference book for me as I’ve gone to it several times for confirmation of something I was thinking or wanted to express. It’s a quick and easy read, so if you want to understand Costa Rica and Costa Ricans, read this book.

(Click here to buy this book on

Although being retired is a happy condition in itself, living in Costa Rica has a great deal to do with our sense of well-being. I’ve been thinking about what I have here: a beautiful and peaceful country unlikely to be threatened by another world power, large or small, a host country whose citizens are gracious and charming, a climate that requires no air conditioning or heating, a great variety of good food at reasonable prices. These are all conditions that contribute to the good life…Yes, it is very easy to be content in Costa Rica.”

– Jo Stuart, Butterfly in the City, p. 214

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