Cultures and Traditions in Costa Rica

The culture and traditions of the country are mainly the result of mixing between the Spanish culture and the native indigenous one. We find this mixture at all levels and especially in Catholic religious celebrations, where it is more than common to see elements of indigenous folklore appear. Futhermore, Afro-Caribbean influences are also palpable!

Some aspects of Costa Rican culture and traditions:

Legends

You may have the chance on your trip to attend a parade or a village party and see its inevitable giants dancing! The masks they wear are full of stories and legends. You will be able to recognize the rich White landowner and his wife, la Cegua (beautiful blonde woman with a horse's head), el Cadejos (black dog with bloodshot eyes), los duendes (sort of trolls or farfadets, inhabitants of the woods), the witch and many others!

Walter Ferguson

Singer of calypso, he was born in Panama, but spent his whole life in Cahuita on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. His lyrics, a combination of humor and drama, talk about the locals’ life and only have the accompaniment of his guitar. Recognized for a long time in Costa Rica, it’s only at the age of 83, following the strong pressure of a recording studio, that he released his first disc, Babylon. Success is total, at home and abroad

Dances

As true Latinos, Ticos love to dance! Costa Rica has a great musical diversity at the crossroads of Afro-Caribbean and Latin cultures. The most popular music and dances are merengue, salsa, cumbia, bolero and the « swing criollo » (jumping dance of the San José neighborhoods).

In addition to these daily dances, there are traditional feast days dances, such as the Punto Guanacasteco (national dance where heels slam and colorful satin skirts twirl), the dance of the Yegüita or of the "little mare" (traditional religious dance that combines the Chorotegas and Catholic traditions), the "Danza de los Diablitos" (Boruca dance that stages the conflict between the natives and the Spanish colonists), and many others!

Literature

Carlos Luis Fallas, one of Costa Rica's leading novelists, is famous for Mamita Yunai, a novel about the working conditions in the United Fruit Company, where he worked for a few years.

The huetar indian, José León Sánchez, is also a figurehead of Costa Rican literature. His first work, "Isla de los hombres solos", tells of his life in the penitentiary of San Lucas Island. He was imprisoned there 20 years after being wrongly accused of being the author of the theft of the Basilica « de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles » in Cartago.

Oxcarts and « Boyeros »

The oxcarts, sporting colorful geometric patterns, are the centerpieces of Sarchí craftsmanship. You may have the chance to see them in full size during a "desfile de los boyeros" (it is so to say a parade of the « ox masters ») or at a village party. Although today the ox cart is very little used during agricultural work, it’s the national symbol of work in Costa Rica and an essential attribute during parades!

The "Tope" (to pronounce Topay)

These are horse parades during which the riders show incredible feats in terms of training and the mounts wear their finery! These popular celebrations usually end up happily in a lively dance. Almost every village has its Topé. However those of San Jose, Palmares, Alajuela and Santa Maria de Dota are by far the most famous!