Heredia expat Jack Donnelly travels the country investigating and documenting folkloric events. The result is a new book, his first.
Donnelly, who spent his adult life in New Hampshire as a teacher and school administrator, nurtured a long-standing interest in Latin culture stemming from when he studied cultural anthropology at the Universidad de las Américas in Mexico City in the 1960s. He later worked in a Mayan cooperative in the western highlands of Guatemala with the U.S. Peace Corps.
“The goal of this book is to fill a gap in the English-language literature about Costa Rica,” he said. “I am trying to illuminate at least a portion of the traditional folk culture of the country. I also identify and describe many of the national traditions and Costa Rican cuisine. In doing so, I hope to dispel the common belief that Costa Rica doesn’t have a vibrant folk culture or tasty different dishes worthy of trying. This is a great country to travel around for many reasons, including the folk culture and cuisine. To my mind, travel should involve learning about the customs of the area and trying new and exciting dishes.”
“COSTA RICA: Folk Culture, Traditions, and Cuisine” will be available on Amazon in the next week, he said by email.
An example of his explorations is what he calls the wonderful blended Catholic-Chorotega festival that has been taking place for 360 years in Nicoya, Guaancaste. It is called the Danza de la Yegüita, and he provided this book excerpt to explain:
“On Dec. 12th of every year, a centuries-old folkloric celebration of la Virgen de Guadalupe and la Yegüita (“the Little Mare”) takes place in Nicoya, Guanacaste. This festival marks the culmination of a long, complex, and highly structured community effort. This year-long process is supervised by a religious brotherhood, la Cofradía de Nuestra Señorita La Virgen de Guadalupe.
“La Yegüita comes from a Chorotega Indian legend about twin brothers. On Dec. 12th in 1653, the brothers were celebrating la Virgen de Guadalupe and had consumed an ample amount of chicha (corn beer). Both brothers were in love with the same woman, Nantiume. They began to fight over her with machetes. Terrified neighbors implored la Virgen de Guadalupe to intervene and save them. Suddenly, a small black mare came out of nowhere. Kicking and biting, she got between the combatants and separated them. This was seen by the Chorotegas as divine intervention by la Virgen and has been celebrated ever since.
“Today it is commemorated and celebrated with la Danza de la Yegüita. In the dance, la Yegüita (a carved wood and fabric costume with a braided tail) dances in quick swirling steps with la Muñeca (a small dressed doll on a stick), who represents a Chorotega woman calling to la Yegüita with her movements. The dark color of the doll and the mare is seen as an indigenous attribute. The dance takes place in advance of la Virgen as she makes her way around town and, briefly, in the Iglesia Nueva (“New Church”) at the end of a special Mass on the 12th.”