Aserrí hosts a double dose of culture this weekend

There is a double feature this weekend in the town of Aserrí. Starting Friday there is the three-day Feria de Tamal, featuring the traditional Costa Rican dish.

Then Sunday the community expects some 800 masked visitors from all over the country for the  Encuentro Nacional de Mascaradas. Organizers said there will be representation from at least 22 groups.

The gathering of marchers wearing the giant papier mâché masks is Costa Rica’ answer to the cultural invasion of North America’s Halloween. These giant masks have been with the Latin culture since at least the early Middle Ages and perhaps before.

Aserrí is the cultural home of the tamal and also the mascaradas. For the uninformed, a tamal is a mass of dough in which meat, some vegetables and condiments are placed. The whole thing is wrapped up in banana leaves with string, baked and then boiled. Typically they are sold in pairs, a piña.

Aserrí has several firms that make tamales by the truckload. They are a traditional Christmas food.

The Asociación Cívico Cultural Aqueserrí, the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud and the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo are organizers.

Much of the activity will be at the central park in the community, which is uphill and just south of Desamparado.

As with similar events there will be crafts and foods for sale as well as music and fireworks, organizers said.

A 10 a.m. parade Sunday will have all the mascaradas as participants as well as the traditional street bands, the cimarronas.  However, the loud activities start early, at 4 a.m., organizers said.

Oct. 31, Thursday, is the official Día Nacional de la Mascarada Tradicional Costarricense, but the event Sunday takes advantage of the weekend.

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