Tico culture being reclaimed with masks Sunday

Perhaps a mask that typifies the national style

Sunday is Halloween, but for many Costa Ricans this is a foreign holiday. So the Día de la Mascarada Costarricense was born to provide a local cultural outlet to the tradition of wearing disguises.

Events will be held Sunday in Liberia, Cañas, Aserrí and Heredia and Saturday in Cartago. In Aserrí there is the added bonus of the weekend Feria del Tamal, the event that honors the country’s traditional Christmas food.

Naturally the masked events will be surrounded by dancing, music and food.

This also is the weekend when the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional celebrates its 70th birthday.

The day of the masks can be traced to a decree issued in 1997 that formalized the tradition. But popular culture needs no decree. The parades of masks and similar are at least a hundred years old. The Museo de Cultura Popular of the Universidad Nacional in Heredia has original masks from the early days of the 20th century.

Looking further back, one can link celebrations with masks to the pre-Columbian cultures. The masks made by the Boruca and Bribri peoples are world famous. So are the Juego de los Diablitos and its masked figures with which the Boruca mark the new year.

Early masked festivals among the Spanish-
speaking populations were related to religious events.

In Liberia, the Banda de Guanacaste will play in the Parque Central there at 7 p.m Sunday. There will be awards for the top three masks that typify what is being called the national style.

At the weekend Feria de Tamal 2010 in Aserrí groups from a number of Central Valley communities will gather to march with bands starting at 10 a.m. Sunday. The event lasts all day ending with fireworks in the evening. It is called the Encuentro Nacional de Mascaradas.

The tamal festival began Thursday. Aserrí is the appropriate place because it was here in 1947 that the first tamales for commercial sale were made. The town is now a center of that activity with a flurry of effort every December to prepare thousands of the banana leaf-wrapped specialties. Aserrí is south of San José in the mountains above Desamparados.

In Cañas the Sunday event will be at 7 p.m. in Plaza Colón with cimarronas or small marching bands and masked participants.

In the Casa de la Cultura in Heredia ghost and horror stories will be mixed with theatrical presentations and a parade of masked figures in the nearby Parque Central. That starts at 4 p.m.

In Paraíso de Cartago the municipality is organizing a celebration Saturday starting at 7 p.m. with masked paraders in the vicinity of the local cemetery and then ending up at the Parque Central.

At all the events, masks certainly will represent political figures, sports personalities, animals and characters from various legends. Masks of Óscar Arias Sánchez were very popular during four years of protests over the free trade treaty with the United States. It is a good bet that someone is crafting a mask of President Laura Chinchilla Miranda.

There will be no mask at the orchestra concert tonight or Sunday morning at the Teatro Nacional. There are no seats left either. But theater workers are putting up a big screen in the Plaza de la Cultura for the overflow.

Meanwhile, the Fuerza Pública is on high alert this weekend as young vandals take advantage of the Halloween tradition to impede traffic and do damage.

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