The consumption of fish is just short of mandatory for Catholics during Semana Santa. That is why there are large displays of sardines and other canned sea foods at the local supermarket.
That also is why supermarket officials have inched up the prices.
Fasting and abstinence are part of Roman Catholic canon law and affect all believers 14 and through 60. That means that at certain times the faithful should reduce their consumption and abstain from red meat as a way of atoning for their sins.
Fish are well represented in the New Testament, including the parable of the loaves and fishes. Most of the apostles were fishermen, according to the biblical accounts.
During the 40 days of Lent, Catholics are asked to abstain from red meat on Fridays and certainly on Good Friday, the traditional date of the crucifixion of Jesus.
The requirements are not as strict as they used to be, and they vary by country. Time was when mortification of the flesh was a popular
way to atone for sins. The secretive Penitentes in New Mexico will go so far as to nail a volunteer to the cross again this year.
In Costa Rica, the seasonal fish dishes have transcended religious rules and have become part of a popular tradition.
The merchants who sell fish at the Mercado Central in San José are dedicating all next week to a festival over their products. Fish are the reluctant guests at the Feria del Pescado, which runs from Monday until Sunday, which happens to be Palm Sunday or Domingo de Ramos in Spanish. That Sunday is the beginning of Semana Santa or Holy Week. Hours are from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The organizer, the Unión de Comerciantes Pesqueros del Mercado Central, promises entertainment, including those towering mascaradas, the cimarronas street bands, face painting for kids, mimes and other diversions.
The mercado itself is a step back into the 19th century when it was the mall of its day. As Latin American central markets go, the market here is clean and well maintained. The market also is known for its many small restaurants and specialized food shops. The operator is the municipality.