Fiestas and Topes Costa Rica Traditions
Cattle farming is a major industry in Costa Rica and with this comes the standard rituals associated with every ranch and ranger, rodeos or Topes. Tope's (Rodeos) are very common in the Guanacaste region where the largest cattle farms in the country are located. Almost every small town host Rodeos in the summer months between February and April. Among the events are, the always popular Bull Riding Shows, bootless bull fighting, calf-roping, horse manoeuvring, and herding and milking competitions. Here is where you will meet true Sabaneros (cowboys). You may also encounter Cimarrona bands, which are traditional country bands. There is a big rodeo in San José in March with cattle shows, bullfights, and horse races. Also, a Cattle exhibit is held in February in San Isidro de El General. This is mainly an agricultural fair and show with a little bull teasing added for some live entertainment.
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Some major festivals you may want to check out are listed here:
• Fiesta de Palmares is in early January. This is a carnival complete with rides, bingo, concerts, and parades. These are the largest fiestas in the country and are considered the national fiestas of Costa Rica.
• A Full Moon festival is held at Playa Cocalito on the Peninsula de Osa in January with food, art, and cultural activities
• The Puntarenas Carnival in the last week of February
• The Sun Festival is held the last week in February to promote the use of solar powered energy. There are talks about solar power, exhibits of solar energy devices, and food cooked in a solar powered oven! They also take this opportunity to celebrate the Maya New Year, February 25, with a fire ceremony.
• In the last week of February Liberia hosts the grandest festival in Guanacaste
• There is a Music Festival in Monteverde with activities running through February and March
• Fiesta of the Diablos is a festival of history. Held in the Boruca Indian Village of Rey Curré, it depicts the fight between the Indians and the Spanish with colourful wooden masks and costumes amid flute and drum music. They sell local made crafts and in the evening there is dancing and fireworks!
• Dia del Boyero (Oxcart Drivers Day) is the second Sunday in March in San Antonio de Escazú. The Oxcart (carreta) is a symbol of Costa Rican culture and history. They were constructed to transport coffee beans from the Central Valley and highlands to Puntarenas on the Pacific Coast. The wheels were developed to carry the beans over muddy terrain for periods of up to 15 days. They combined the traditional Aztec disc wheel with engineering concepts of the spoke wheel brought over by the Spanish. The elaborate designs that you see painted on the oxcarts were originally specific to each area and this was a way to distinguish the origin of a farmer and his cart. Oxcarts are found in many parades and celebrations all over the country throughout the year. At this particular festival local priests perform special blessings of livestock and crops.
• A Caribbean Music Festival is held throughout March and April at Playa Chiquita, just south of Puerto Viejo de Limon
• April 11th is Juan Santamarίa Day, a celebration of the countries hero. A young farmer who sacrificed his life for the freedom of the Costa Rican people. In the 1800’s William Walker, a completely arrogant American filibuster (Dutch for Pirate), decided to try and enslave the people of Central America. In the battle for Rivas in 1856, Juan ran straight into shooting range of the enemy with a torch and, before he died, inflamed a building within which William’s troops were hiding. He is a martyr for Costa Rican unity and national identity. “For the redemption of our brethren from the most iniquitous tyranny” (Statement by President Juan Rafael Mora 1856). Celebrations go for a week with bands, dancing, parades and concerts. Often times you will see people re-enacting his bravery by carrying torches.
• July 25th is Guanacaste Day which is a celebration of Guanacaste’s annexation with Costa Rica in 1824. They have special folk dances, cattle shows, and the nation’s favourite, bull teasing.
• They celebrate Mother’s and Father’s day in Costa Rica. Father’s Day is the third Sunday in June while Mother’s Day is on August 15th.
• Semana Cultural Afrocostarricense is a week long cultural celebration for Afro-Costa Ricans in August. There are group discussions and debates along with exhibits about Afro culture.
• Independence Day is the 15th of September. This is to celebrate the independence of all of Central America from the colonial empire of Spain. The Freedom Torch is carried all the way from Guatemala to Costa Rica to the colonial capital, Cartago. Children make paper lanterns to illuminate the streets during a nocturnal parade and the National Anthem is sung with pride.
• Limón Carnival is a week filled with street dancers, parades, and reggae concerts. A definite “Caribbean Beat” is felt here in this Afro-influenced area of the country. It is held in the second week of October.
• October 13 is Fiesta del Maiz, the Festival of Corn. Here they make costumes entirely out of the husks, grains, and silks of corn.
• Day of the Dead is on November 2nd here in Costa Rica. It is used more for visiting the graves of friends and relatives, rather than a ploy for costumes and candy.
• December sees the influx of many celebrations in preparation for Christmas and the New Year just like in many western nations. San José is lit up by decorative lights, families design complex nativity scenes and a competition is on through to the 22nd for the best display. Festive foods include coconut melcochas (candy), chichi (corn liquor), tamales (boiled corn dough stuffed with varieties of meat and veg), rompope (eggnog), and in place of Turkey and mashed potatoes, the Costa Ricans make a large helping of Arroz con Pollo (rice with chicken).
• New Years starts to be commemorated by the Festejos Populares on Dec.26 at Zapote, an amusement park and fair grounds in San José. There is a huge parade in Downtown complete with decorated floats and lots of music. New Years Day is a community wide fiesta. People who live near one another and, like in most communities, have grown up together, have open door policies and friends walk in and out of each others homes and join in all the parties!