... Dr. Ricardo Moreno Cañas ...
by Infocostarica Staff

It was a mild, starry night on August 23 ,1938. An ordinary and rather insignificant-looking man walked up to the doctor’s doorstep. He rang the bell and a maid opened it. He called himself Julio Campos and asked to see the doctor. Thinking that it was a patient, the doctor agreed and invited him into his living room, where he was reading the day’s newspaper. “Campos” opened his jacket, pulled out a gun and shot the doctor three times in different parts of his body. Doctor Ricardo Moreno Canas, one of Costa Rica’s legendary physicians, lay dead at the feet of a paranoid and insane name, whose real name was Beltran Cortes.

Having discussed his death, it’s only fair to mention Moreno’s birth and his life. Doctor Ricardo Moreno Canas was born on May 8, 1890 in San Jose, Costa Rica. His mother was Clara Canas and his father Inocente Moreno, was an attorney of Spanish descent. Ricardo was one of eleven children. Young Ricardo attended the Colegio Seminario and the Liceo de Costa Rica, where he obtained his high school degree. After high school, he obtained a scholarship to attend the Gibraltar University in Switzerland, where he received the title of Doctor and Surgeon in 1915. He immediately started working in Swiss hospitals, but with the coming of World War I, he traveled to France in order to work as a surgeon in the Ambulances of the Automobile Club of France. Because of his dedication and extraordinary work during the war, he received several medals in 1918. After the war he served as resident surgeon in Saboy, France until he returned to Costa Rica in June of 1919. Moreno Canas had even more success in his country than in Europe, especially because Costa Rica was a small country; his fame soon spread to the point of transforming him into a living legend. Moreno joined the Faculty of Medicine of Costa Rica in 1919, and by 1925 he had become its President. Furthermore,in 1936 he was named the Chief of Surgery of the San Juan de Dios Hospital.

Among his many achievements, there was one that contributed largely to his mythification. In 1934 the son of a neighbor was shot in a fight with a jealous husband. Moreno Canas extracted a bullet from his heart, and the patient was up and about only a month and a half later. His fame spread like wildfire, especially because apart from being succesful, this had been the first open-heart operation in the country. Needless to say, this achievement earned him another medal, this time from the Faculty of Medicine.

This amazing surgeon, who often battled with the lack of proper equipment and funds of Costa Rican hospitals, decided to enter the political realm in the thirties. He was elected Diputado (Congressman) from 1932-1936 and from 1936-1940. He could have been President according to many, but he was assassinated by Beltran Cortes on August 23, 1938. Cortes didn’t only kill a man’s political aspirations- he killed the country’s most outstanding surgeon, whose sense of social welfare made him a generous man that often didn’t charge for his services. Cortes killed a man full of life, who enjoyed the arts such as painting and music, who took delight in fishing and hunting. Cortes killed a good man and the worst thing was that Cortes himself didn’t even know why he did it.

Even though Dr. Ricardo Moreno Canas passed away in 1938, he’s still remembered by everyone. His myth goes on to the point that vendors outside of some hospitals sell cards that have his picture next to an angel’s and a prayer! Moreno Canas is clearly more than a man or a doctor to Costa Ricans. Cortes killed the man but he couldn’t terminate the legend.