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Costa Rica Cultura

Straddling the Meso-American isthmus at the juncture of North and South America, this diminutive nation is barely 480 kilometers north to south and 280 kilometers at its widest point, near the Nicaraguan border. Occupying one of the world’s most geologically unstable areas, the country is subjected to powerful tectonic forces that trigger the earthquakes and punctuate the landscape with smoldering volcanoes. With scores of micro-climates, the emerald landscape is a quiltwork of 12 different life zones, from coastal wetlands to subaline grassland. Costa Rica is characterized by a homogeneity of culture unique among Central American nations, with the Spanish influence being all-encompassing and indigenous culture having little impact. However, nog spanish cultures exist in a few pockets, such as the Jamaican ethos of the Caribbean coast. Another distinctive feature is the nation’s conservation ethic, as evidenced by its nationwide network of wildlife parks and refuges, which embraces about 30 percent of its area- more than any other nation on earth. Costa Ricans are knowns as Ticos.

2 Costaricence Costa Rican People 4 Grupos Indigenas Indigenous Groups 8 Fiesta Celebrations 12 MĂşsica Music 16 Danza Traditional Dance 20 Deporte Sports 24 Arte Art


About eight out of ten Costa Ricans are nominally Catholic, and a large portion of the population are regual practitioners of the faith. The most venerated figure is La Negrita, the country’s patron saint, who is believed to grant miracles.


The country has the highest rate of literacy and life expectancy in Latin America. Virtually the entire nation is tapped into the Internet, and mobile telephone use is the highest in Central America.


and electricity extend into even the most remote backwaters, and today few communities are entirely isolated from teh modern world. In fact, Josefinos lead a typically modern urban lifestyle, and the capital has a welldeveloped middle class.

Costa Rican People 4


Costa Ricans are known as Ticos because of ther habitual use of this term as a diminutive, for instance “momentico” for “just a moment” instead of “momentito.” The majority are descendants from of early Spanish settlers. Concentrated on the Caribbean coast, Afro Caribbeans are mainly descended from Jamaicans who came as contract labor in the late 19th century, and form a large community.


Life revolves around the family, usually headed by a matriarch, and an immediate circle of compadres. Individuals tend to guard thier personal lives closely and are more inclined to invite acquaintances to restaurants than welcome them into their homes.

5 Costaricence


Costa Ricans are proud of their country’s neutrality and stable democracy. Ticos are generally a liberal, tolerant people with a concern for societal harmony and welfare. It is a country without an army.


Contemporary Costa Rica has been shaped by a relatively benign history devoid of the great clash between pre-columbian and Spanish cultures that characterized the formative period of neighboring nations. The nations declaration of neutrality in 1948 continues to help forge its identity today.

Indigenous Groups

Sparsely inhabited at the time of Columbus’ arrival, the country today has 40,000 indigenous inhabitants, who account for less than one percent of the total population. They belong to seven main tribes, lving relatively marginalized from mainstream society in 22 remote reserves, the tribes sustain themselves by hunting and farming; and some continue to create traditional handicrafts. Few tribes speak their native language, and even fewer have been able to keep their religious traditions free from outside influences.

CHOROTEGA of Guanacaste and Northern Nicoya were the largest tribe in the pre-Columbian era. Today about 1,000 true blood Chorotegas live in matriarchal families, and take pride in their distinctive pottery.


cling precariously to ancestral lands in the hills west of the Terraba valley. They are famed for their balsa wood masks of animals representing supernatural beings, used in the Fiesta de Los Diablitos.


today comprise 10,000 individuals, who cling to their collective faith in Sibú, the creator of the universe. They welcome visits to the Reserva Indígena KeköLdi where some Bribri continue to live in traditional huts.

Indigenous Groups 8


live in the Talamanca Cabecar Reserve and today consist of about 5,000 individuals. Shamantic rituals remain an integral part of Cabecar culture.

9 Gropas Indigenas


retain a strong cultural identity, including the Guayami language. Uniquely, women still wear the traditional garment with decorative triangular patterns, as well as collares of colorful beads.


retain their language and costums. They are known for bark cloth (mastate) painted with the fingertips.


of the Puriscal region still practice the ancient Festival of the Corn butin many other aspects have been integrated into mainstream society.


Fiesta de los Negritos (dec 8), Boruca. The indigenous Boruca peoples celebrate their traditions with costumed dancing and drum and flute music. Fiesta de la Yeguita (dec 12), Nicoya. The festival of the Little Mare recalls a Chorotega legend and blends Indian and Catholic rituals. Los Posadas (dec 15) Before Christmas, the carolers go house to house by night and are rewarded with food. Fiesta de la Luz (dec 26) San Jose, The nocturnal festival of Light. Carnaval Nacional (dec 27), San Jose. Locals don costumes and dance in the streets to live music. A competition of floats is the highlight of the procession. Fiesta Zapote (late dec), Zapote. Citizens flock to this suburb of San Jose for the fairground, fireworks and topes. Fiesta de los Diabolitos (dec 31 - Jan 2) Buenos Aires and Boruca. Men dressed as devils rush trough the two villages in the Boruca community and reenact battles between them and the Spanish.


Fiesta de Palmares (first two weeks of january), Palmares. Concerts, rodeos, fireworks and music highlight this festival. Fiesta Patronal de Santo Cristo (mid-Jan), Santa Cruz. Rodeos, folk dancing, street festivities, and a parade of carretas mark this 2-day celebration honoring Santo Cristo de Esquipulas. Festival de las Mulas (late Jan), Playas Esterillos. Popular festival with mule races on the beach, as well as a crafts fair, corridas de toros and music and dance.


Expo Perez Zeledon (early Feb), San Isidro de El General. Cattle fair and orchid show, also featuring ropes, rodeo, beauty contests and carousels. Good Neighbors Jazz Festival (mid-Feb), Manuel Antonio. Jazz ensembles perform at hotels and other venues troughout the area. Carnaval de Puntarenas (last week of Feb) Parade floats, street fairs, music, and dancing enliven this coastal city for a week.

Fiestas in the Dry Season

The cooler , drier months are ideal for beach holidays, especially in Guanacaste and Northern Nicoya, where it hardly rains. Town squares are ablaze with jaranda and flame of the forest. With coastal waters in the south at their clearest, scuba diving excellent. Wildlife viewing is also at its best, with deciduous trees dropping their leaves. This is peak season troughout the nation, with high prices and fully booked hotels.


Dia del Boyero (2nd Sun), San Antonio. A parade of colorfully decorated traditional oxcarts honors the boyero. International Festival of the Arts (2nd week), San Jose. Theaters and other venues bustle with live theater, dance performance, music concerts, visual art exhibits and conferences. Southern Caribbean Music Festival (Mar - Apr). Puerto Viejo de Talamanca and Cahuita. Performers spanning the spectrum from classical to calypso and reggae enliven these towns. Sementa Sana (Mar or Apr) Easter Week is the most important holiday of the year, with processions nationwide, notably in Cartago and San Joaquin de Flores near Heredia. Costumed citizens reenact Christ’s crucifixion in passion plays

Dia de Juan Santamaria (Apr 11) Alajuela. Marching bands, a beauty pageant, and topes are part of the celebrations honoring the young national hero who was killed fighting against William Walker in the War of 1856. Feria del Ganado (mid Apr) Ciudad Queseda. The nation’s largest cattle fair also features a horse parade and corridas de toros Romeria Virgen de la Candelaria (3rd Sun) Ujarras. A pilgrimage from Paraiso to Ujarras terminates with games and celebrations to honor the supposed miracle atributed to the Holy Virgin that saved the town of Ujarras from the pirate invastion in 1666. Semana Universidad (last week of Apr), San Jose. The Campus of the University of Costa Rica is the setting for weeklong free activities, including open-air art shows, concerts antt he crowning of the University Queen.


Dia de los Trabajadores (May 1) Trade unions organize marches in major cities to honor the workers on Labor Day. Fiesta Civica (early May), Canas. Cowboy traditions are displayed at corridas de toros and topes. Street fairs feature folklore music, dance, and traditional food. Corpus Christi (May 29) Pacayas and Cartago. The two towns hold religious parades and church services.


Monteverde Ecotouristic Fair (mid-Jun) Educational and cultural activities are the highlights of this themed event. A stage hosts live theater, music, and other events. costa Rican Cuisine is served. Dia de San Pedro y San Pablo (Jun 29), San Jose. St. Peter and St. Paul are honored in religious celebrations. Compania de Lirica Nacional (mid-Jun to midAug) San Jose. The National Lyric Opera Company presents a 2-month long opera festival in San Jose’s sumptuously decorated Teatro Melico Salazar.


Festival de la Virgen del Mar (mid Jul), Puntarenas. The “Sea Festival” honors Carmen, Virgin of the Sea, with religous processions, a carnival, fireworks and a boating regatta. Dia de la Anexion de Guanacaste (Jul 25) , The annexation of Guanacaste by Costa Rica in 1824 is celebrated nationwide with music and folkloric dancing. Rodeos and bullfights are held at Libera and Santa Cruz. International Festival of Music (Jul-Aug) International musicians predominantl classical music at venues around the nation.


Dia de Nuestra Senora de la Virgen de Los Angeles (Aug 2), Cartago. Costa Rica’s most important religious procession to honor ist patron saint, La Negrita, draws the faithful from around the nation. The devout carry crosses or crawl on their knees to Cartago’s famous basilica. Liberia Blanca Culture Week (early Aug), Liberia. Cowboys come to town, and citizens don traditional attire to honor local traditions with music, dancing and food. Dia de las Madres (Aug 15) On Mother’s Day, everyone honors their mother, who is usually taken out to lunch or dinner and serenated by hired mariachis. National Adventure Tourism Festival (late Aug), Turrialba. Mountain biking, whitewater rafting, and kayaking are among the activities highlighted. Dia de San Ramon (Aug 31) San Ramon. The local patron saint is carried in procession. Tico culture is celebrated with marimba music, topes, processions and regional dishes.

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Correo de la Candela de Independencia (Sep 14) Runners carrying a Freedom torch from Guatemala travel from town to town, arriving in Cartago at 6pm, when the entire nation sings the national anthem. At night children carry home-made lanterns in procession troughout the country. Dia de la Independencia (Sep 15) Costa Rica’s independence from Spain n 1821 is celebrated nationwide with street festivities, topes, and school marching bands. Orosi Colonial Tourist Fair (mid-Sep) Cultural events and exhibits celebrate the regions’s colonial heritage.

Fiestas in the Wet Season


Carnaval (2nd week) Puerto Limon. Ticos flock to the coast for a vibrant, no holdsbarred, Caribbean-style Mardi Gras with parade floats, street fairs, live reggae and calypso music. Dia de las Culturas (Oct 12) Columbus’ discovery of the Americas is celebrated with cultural events troughout the nation, notably in Puerto Limon; the city’s Carnaval culminates on this day. Fiesta del Maiz (mid Oct) Upala. Locals craft clothes out of corn husks and make cornbased foods in a traditional celebration of maiz (corn). Dia del Sabanero (Oct 18) Topes and celebrations mark Cowboy’s Day. Liberia and Parque Nacional Santa Rosa have the most lively festivities.

The onset of the rains marks the beginnng of the off-season. Montainous parts are prone to landslides, and many roads are washed out. Nontheless, mornings are typically sunny, while afternoon rains help cool off sometimes stifling days. This is the best time for surfing in the Pacific, and olive ridley turtles begin their arribadas. Sport fishing is also at a premium, especially in Northern Pacific waters. Toward the end of the wet season, Costa Rica is at its lushest, and swollen rivers provide plenty of whitewater thrills. The Pacific southwest is subject to severe thunderstorms in October and November.

15 Fiestas


Dia de Todos Santos (Nov 2) All Soul’s Day is celebrated nationwide with church processions. Families visit cemetaries to remeber loved ones and lay marigolds and other flowers on the graves. La Ruta de los Conquistadores (mid Nov) This week-long, coast to coas mountain bike championship, which aims to retrace the route of the Spanish conquerors across Costa Rica, is considered one of the world’s most challenging. Feria Agroecoturistica (mid Nov) Atenas. Log felling contests, tractor tours, horseback rides, and an orchid show at the Escuela de Ganaderia reserve. Fiesta de las Carretas (late Nov) San Jose. Oxcarts are paraded from Parque Sabana and along the Paseo Colon.

costa rica cultura  

schoolwork one of a series of three books about costa rica