Edited from articles that first appeared in the original Tamarindo News.
Aracelly Lopez Valerin
What was Tamarindo like 60 years ago? A very different place, according to Aracelly Lopez Valerin. Aracelly, better known as Tuca, was born on her grandparent’s finca, Barco Quebrada (named after the shipwreck off Punta Madero). In those days, Tamarindo was divided into two fincas - her family farm and that of the Rodriguez family. A gate near the site of the ferreteria marked the entrance to Barca Quebrada and the finca included the land on both sides of the present road to the hills surrounding Tamarindo, ending at the San Francisco estuary. (The flat land fronting the beach and continuing back through the tamarindo resort club to the area near the gym was owned by the Rodriguez family.)
Tuca remembers a time when all of the families in this area were basically self-sufficient. Everything that they consumed was grown on the family farm, or gathered from nature. The Lopez family raised livestock--including poultry, pigs and cattle--and grew corn, ayote, plantanos and cuadrados. Fruits trees like nance, jocote, grenada, tamarindo and maranon grew abundantly and the seeds of the Panama tree and cashew nuts supplemented their diet. The Lopez’s kept dairy cows for milk and natilla. Pigs provided meat, but their true value was measured in the amount of lard that could be rendered after cooking chicharrones. The lard could be sold or traded, and was used as cooking oil and as a medicine that was heated and then rubbed on a sore throat, chest or stomach.
Glassware and china were luxuries uncommon in the area. The gourd tree (jicaro) provided everyone with cups and bowls for cooking and eating. The farm had no plumbing, so Tuca and her sisters carried water from the well in some pre-columbian tinajas (jugs) her uncle found on his finca in Portrero. A leaf with raised ribs called a “raspa” was used for cleaning the bowls as well as the wood furniture, walls and floors.
Religion was an important part of daily life, and the fiestas commemorating the feast days of local saints were events which brought everyone in the canton together. El Cristo de Esquipulas is the patron saint of Santa Cruz, and his shrine passed from town to town throughout the year. Esquipulas’ entry into a town began a period of prayers. The altar was brought to each home, and those who wished to obtain favors mounted offerings in the shrine, such as small replicas of body parts that needed healing. On the last day of Equipulas’ presence in a town, they held a “subasta”--a farmer’s market where everyone brought goods to be bartered or sold. The money collected went to support community projects. Then the whole town marched in a procession to bring the shrine to the next village in the rotation.
On January 14th, Esquipulas was carried from Arado (a town in the hills above Santa Cruz) down to the hermitage in Santa Cruz. The three day fiesta marking Equipulas’ homecoming was the biggest event of the year. Tuca’s family had a home in Santa Cruz, but she doesn’t remember sleeping during the fiesta. It was three days and nights of non-stop celebration--dancing, music, subastas, wonderful typical food made from corn. She and her sisters slept on the ride home - the horses knew the way.
Marriage was uncommon in those days. But when a wedding took place, it was a major production. People travelled from their towns on horseback, or in horse-drawn carts or ox carts to Santa Cruz which had the only church in the canton. The family provided dinner and breakfast for the wedding guests. Fireworks were ignited as the newly married couple left the church. Then the wedding party headed home -- the young people usually riding at breakneck speed. All along the way were designated rest stops, where the animals could be fed and watered and the fast and slow members of the party could reunite for a meal. At the end of a journey was a beautiful banquet at the family home. Tuca remembers the colorfully decorated tables laden with all kinds of food - stuffed hens and baby pigs, the fruits and vegetables from everyone’s gardens.