Edited from articles that first appeared in the original Tamarindo News.
Guanacastecan Gracias a Dios
There is a movement taking place throughout our province to preserve the traditions and culture of Guanacaste -- there are even courses teaching and investigating “Guanacastiquidad,” a concept that integrates all that is unique to the chorotega region. Many of the people native to this region consider themselves Guanacastecan first, then Costa Rican. A favorite saying is, “Tico de nacimiento, Guanacastecan gracias a dios.” (Costa Rican by birth, Guanacastecan thanks to god.) Guanacaste was an autonomous region until 1824 when Central America gained autonomy from Spain and the people of the region had to decide whether to join the republic of Nicaragua or Costa Rica.
July 25th is the Day of the Annexation, or Guanacaste Day, celebrating the Government of Nicoya’s decision to annex the territory to Costa Rica. Although Guanacaste remains part of Costa Rica, it still feels like a world apart, with a very independent spirit. The sound of the marimba, the cowboy yell, bullriders, bulls, dances, fights, romances, its own cuisine, and even its language, have made Santa Cruz, Guanacaste the folklore capital of Costa Rica. The “fiestas tipicas” that take place on July 25th and every weekend during the dry season are a perfect way to get to know a lot the local culture. Eat the food, drink a beer and get into the Guanacaste cowboy spirit.
The Guanacaste cowboys who worked on the big cattle ranches pioneered riding bulls for sport in Costa Rica about 200 years ago. At round-up time, all of the cowboys from the surrounding ranches would ride out together to help bring in the cattle. The round -up usually turned into a party and competition among the cowboys. That tradition has evolved into the fiestas cívicas that are celebrated in the small towns of Guanacaste throughout the dry season.
Today, fireworks open and close the fiesta. The loud bombas can be heard throughout the surrounding towns. The traditional band, or “cimarrona”, heavy with brass and drums, loudly plays the traditional bull fighting and fiesta tunes. The band starts each day with the “diana”, marching through town at five a.m. to wake up the town for the day’s festivities. Then cowboys on horseback ride in “topes de toros”, bringing the bulls from the fincas into town to the bullring. Clowns or “payasos” with large, grotesque heads join the parade. Daily events include bull riding and traditional music and dances.
Gritos and bombas are two things that are truly Guanacastecan. The “grito” is the call heard at every corrida de toros, and is sometimes called an “yppe.” The call imitates the sound of the rooster, and was a way for the sabaneros (or cowboys) to communicate across the great distances of the plains. It’s a kind of long-distance greeting, or a call for attention. Gritos accompany bull fights, cock fights, dances, and fiestas, and often call the crowd to attention to hear the recitation of a Bomba.
Bombas are short poems, public flirtations or bitter declarations of unrequited love, boasts of virility and expertise, or challenges. A bomba has four verses, rhyming in the second and fourth lines. Bombas descend from the Spanish Copla, verses brought to the plains of Guanacaste during the colonial period. Bombas are public challenges, begging for a response, a call and answer in improvised rhyme. As a courting ritual, the often bawdy bomba can be answered with interest or mocking rebuff. Challenges of machismo can end in duels or back-slapping comraderie celebrating the stinging wit of the verses. The crowd is the jury and final judge of the best performance, approving or mocking the participants.