Masks probably are as old or older than modern humans. In Costa Rica they are considered an art form.
The Día de la Mascarada Tradicional Costarricense Oct. 31 puts a national spin on the U.S. Halloween. The day was established by a presidential decree in 1996. There will be parades and demonstrations of masks all over Costa Rica.
The masks that are seen today came with the Spanish, even though the various native groups have had their own traditions.
The Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural is honoring the Costa Ricatradition of making these mask with a contest and an exhibit that ends appropriately Oct. 31.
There are 112 masks on display at the offices of the Centro opposite Librería Lehmann on the downtown San José pedestrian walkway.
They will be there all month, and there are plans to take them around the country afterwards.
The Centro said that there are 58 large masks and 54 smaller ones. Mask creators compete in three categories based on the length of time they have been making them.
The Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud in a release, quoted Isabel Badilla saying that one reason for the contest is to diminish the traditional notion that masks are associated with violence and alcohol.
She said masks are for enjoyment, not for fighting or alcohol. She is directing the competition.
The contest also is to bring the public closer to the artists, she said.
The masks also have a political dimension. At least recently various public figures have been used as models for masks. However, mainly youngsters dressed in masks and flowing clothing are visible all over the county in festivities with the also traditional street bands.
Some of the creators of the masks have been reported to have used recycled materials.