Photo Essay

A Mercedes Graveyard in Costa Rica

Outside of downtown San José, tucked into a lot on a side street, is this odd Mercedes-Benz graveyard.

It’s an odd place to be. The sign flapping in the wind advertising designated drivers is far from any bar or restaurant. In fact, all that’s around are houses. For some reason, this particular lot is full of decrepit German vehicles. Even stranger to me is that they exist at all: scrapping is big business in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica wages are low when compared to North America and Europe: a carpenter might earn $20 a day; a full-time maid will take home around $300. With that in mind, scrapping and recycling can bring some decent money. Just strip these old Benzes and you’ll have a nice haul.


At my old place up in the mountains, vehicles would occasionally be dumped on backroads. There seemed to be a rule: everyone will wait for 24 hours, in case the owner, the authorities, or tow truck show up. If the car is still there after a day, it’s fair game. Usually, within 48 hours the vehicles had been reduced smoldering frames.


So someone must be watching over this Mercedes graveyard. I just didn’t see anyone, so I wandered freely with the only sounds coming from a wind-blown chofer designado sign, a few buzzing insects, and the distant sounds of reggaeton spilling from a faraway home.  Even when the landscape is less than beautiful, it’s still fascinating. Costa Rica still surprises me at every turn.

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  1. Lemy
    Tuesday April 4th, 2017 at 04:47 PM — Reply

    Donde está ese Cementerio de Mercedes?

    • Tuesday April 4th, 2017 at 04:56 PM — Reply

      Está en Santo Domingo de Heredia, cerda de la Iglesia Tabernáculo de Reunión.

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