Fiestas Tipicas Nacionales

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“Tipicas” usually means “typical,” but as it’s used in the name of this festival, it means “picturesque; full of local color; traditional;” which is a pretty good description.  The main event is one-third rodeo, one-third Mexican bullfight, and one-third pure chaos.

The cowboy bullriders (montedors) are just T-shirt-clad teenagers, but the whole town packs into the “plaza” to watch.  The grandstands (graderias) are a makeshift wooden circle built in the middle of town just for this event.  Some areas have poles supporting a rusty sheet metal roof; a few parts have a thatched (palm-leaf) roof.   Lots of folks just crawl up under these bleachers (without buying a ticket) and peek out from under people’s feet.  There is absolutely nothing about any of it that would be OSHA-compliant.

Each session starts out like a rodeo bull ride – the worked-up bull storms out of the chute, trying to rid itself of the hombre on its shoulders.  This rarely took more than a couple of seconds.    The difference is that instead of a couple of professional life-saving rodeo “clowns” like a rodeo, here there are maybe 200 locals in the arena (toredos improvisados), eager to chase and be chased by the bull for five to ten minutes following each ride.  A good percentage of the folks down there in harm’s way are tipsy at best (surprise!).  The blue-shirted, rope-slinging lasadores were the “pros” on hand to get the bull out of the plaza when it was time for the next rider.  Though the first few pictures look pretty scary, that guy got up and ran away just fine.  In fact, I don’t think anybody (and certainly none of the bulls) was hurt.  The pictures turned out okay, considering they all had to be taken from my seat on the eighth row behind several poles.

There was a big street festival outside, focused mostly on local foods, drink, dancing and (what else?) marimba playing.  Every street corner had one or two of those huge three-man marimbas (wooden xylophones), which are apparently a big tradition in this town (Santa Cruz, Guanacaste, Costa Rica).  There are two statues in the town square, and one of them is a marimba player, if that tells you anything.  Sometimes a singer or a drummer would join in.  It sure made things festive.  I also had some of the best street-vendor pork-on-a-stick you’ll ever run across.  Best of all, everybody seemed to like having their picture taken, and seemed glad to have outsiders see their traditions.  “Fiestas Tipicas Nacionales”:  I think it also means, “Gringos welcome”  (though there were only a handful of gringos visible in town).  Maybe next year I’ll earn my stripes as a toredo improvisado and let somebody else take the pictures.