Guanacaste Celebrates Annexation
The people of Guanacaste take great pride in their unique collective character, one that has been built and fortified by them literally for centuries. Even when they were a part of Nicaragua, most civil and administrative matters were decided by the chief Spanish administrator in Guatemala City. The annexation from strife-torn Nicaragua one hundred eighty seven years ago, on 24 July, 1824, became a beacon, a symbol of this strength and pride. Guanacastecans like to point out that they elected to become a part of Costa Rica voluntarily, by choice (“De la patria por nuestro voluntad”), which is also emblematic of the entire country’s core value of democracy. In fact, this date has now become a national holiday, lending credence to Guanacastecan temperament being a strong example of Costa Rica’s belief system. The political aspects of Guanacaste becoming a part of Costa Rica were many. It increased the population of Costa Rica to gain representation in the Courts of Cadiz in Spain and it enabled the presence there of the Catholic priest Florencio del Castillo, an educated man from a family with strong political ties. Though he died at the early age of fifty-six, he had become renowned for his successful defense for the rights of the indigenous population. The original border for the northwest corner of Costa Rica was the Tempisque River, a natural barrier that divided it from Nicaragua. And certainly, there is a lot of Nicaraguan cultural influence in Guanacaste. But the celebration of Guanacaste’s annexation is purely Costa Rican, celebrated throughout the country. The festivities generally start very early: sunup is not an unusual time to witness the beginning of the horseman’s parade, followed by the parade of schoolchildren, who have had the entire week off in preparation. They wear traditional masks and costumes as varied as monsters and skeletons to bulls and angels, sometimes on stilts as well. It’s not happenstance that a big part of the celebration focuses on the newest generation; rather, it is another example of Guanacaste values. It is not just a gathering, you see. It has the deeper seated purpose of reinforcing the defining beliefs and social values shared by the people of this area and passing them on to the next generation through this celebration. And the people of Guanacaste know how to celebrate, too. Locally, the town square at Villa Real is a center of the festivities. Local cuisine including fresh tamales and carne asada are served prolifically and soda and beer booths abound. There are traditional regional dances and costumes, bailes tipicos, seeped in a folkloric tradition that is uniquely Guanacastecan. And there is music everywhere that includes most Latin styles, but it is the marimba that is the soundtrack of the celebration. A huge wooden corral and bleachers take up a large part of the town square during this festive week. But even the bullfights are passive, symbolic again of the Guanacaste peaceful ways, as unarmed and often tipsy local men jump into the ring to tease the bull for a few moments. The annexation celebrations are a part of the past that refuses to go away, and for this we should all be thankful. The authentic jubilation and self-respect on the faces of the participants and the knowledge that their children’s children will participate in this same tradition is something that cannot be taken away. Some traditions, afterall, are worth keeping.