The 15th September is Costa Rica’s Independence Day. It commemorates independence from Spain which came for Mexico and all Central America in 1821. Costa Rica was such a backwater colony that the news didn’t reach here until a month after the event. The story goes that a torch was lit and carried all the way down to the Panama border bringing the news of independence and the light of freedom to all. The local story is that light was controlled by the imperialists and with independence came the possibility of light for all. The 15th is a popular fiesta with lots of bands, folkloric dancing and parades, and much flag waving and singing of national songs. The kids spent nearly all week preparing 2 dances from Guanacaste (and hence Nicaraguan in origin) and various patriotic songs. On Saturday we marched along to the local public school for a show of nationalism. The principal of the local school is a remarkable woman: big, bold, caribe-tica with a bright pink hat and high pink platforms. Her opening speech was all about independence and saying no to the United States (TLC referendum, 7th October). Then lots of singing and dancing and then a second speech about the importance of maintaining the forests and how no more trees should be cut to make way for homes. I was so impressed at the power and conviction of her speech and that she was saying this at an assembly. The kids obviously adored her.
After I went into Puerto Viejo for shopping. The high school was parading with much drumming and baton twirling. All schools participate with each team creating their own variation, next month the best will compete in San Jose for big prizes. Last year I saw some groups in Puntarenes, but the Puerto kids were great. The music was a mix of national military style drumming, calypso and reggae, and the baton twirlers were really shaking their stuff. I never knew hips could move so fast, I have to say I was mesmerized. The band was very tight and also looked the part with cornrows, shades and very baggy tropical cream suits. I wish them well in the competition.