After Christmas, the horses take to the streets of the capital

The day after Christmas Costa Ricans always revisit their rural roots with the Tope Nacional, a gigantic parade of horse through the downtown.

This year some 690 police officers will be along the line of march and some even in the parade.

The tope, which means encounter in English, is time for big hats, boots, sunburn and perhaps a little beer. There were about 5,000 riders last year.

The six- to seven-hour event brings out a large crowd, and some will be camped on their pickup beds or set up with ice chest, snacks and perhaps even a small kitchen to see the riders, carriages and other animal-powered vehicles.

As always, crowds draw crooks, and police will be on the lookout for illegal activity as well as drunks.

The horses are scheduled to start from Plaza González Víquez at 11:30 a.m., but they usually are late. The route is to Avenida 2 and then west to Paseo Colón with a finish at Calle 40, just a block from Parque la Sabana.

A lot of the spectators will head later to Zapote for the 2013 edition of the Fiestas, which starts Christmas Day for a run until Jan. 5. It is a big carnival with a main attraction of the 3 p.m. and evening bull fights. That is when hundreds of young Costa Ricans enter the ring with a fighting bull and hope they can walk out. Most of the confusion is televised.

And those who have had enough of horses Thursday, can attend the Carnival Nacional in Desamparados Friday.

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