Costa Rican Independence Day Event: Desfile de Faroles!
This makes me wish Mama was here," our oldest remarked as we were shoulder to shoulder, literally rubbing elbows with residents of my mom's home town of Turrialba, Costa Rica.
Never have we taken part in such a tradition. The night before Costa Rica's Independence Day (which is also shared by Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico) entire cities turn out, on the streets, with their "faroles" or luminaries to celebrate.
We began the evening by visiting the town's center park, bringing back memories of dancing around in the center gazebo with my brother and sister as children, while my mother and grandfather looked on. Now, the center is closed off to the public, but there was a gentleman inside playing music and making announcements that knew my mom's cousin who was with us. He kindly let us in so we could take a family photo on the painted steps.
After that, we walked by the Banco Popular. Not a regular stop for tourists with its white and orange logo, but for me, it stands where my grandfather's house once stood. I remember it's old wooden squeaky screen door that led to a long porch. There was a wooden bench my sister played on one too many times and fell off, cutting her forehead on my brother's toy.
Inside the house, I remember watching "Las Picapiedras" or "The Flintstones" in Spanish. Out back, my grandfather had a small hen house where we'd look for eggs, an abandoned swimming pool, lots of trees and a barn-type building that used to have something to do with a soda bottling business my grandparents use to have decades ago.
Of course, the children were less than impressed with the bank, but it was neat to see the old ice cream stand was still there on the corner.
After a quick pizza dinner, we went across an old metal bridge (another memory flashback) to my cousin's school and watched as a HUGE crowd rose and sang several songs. It made me wonder if this is what life was like back in the US in the 1950's and 60's…one nation united (all at 6pm) singing the national anthem, as well as other songs. From young children to granparents, they all joined voices together while the strange American family looked on…and took photos, of course.
After the songs, the children all went to the center of the gymnasium to show off their faroles. We almost lost our youngest in the crowd who was pursuing my mom's cousin who didn't realize she was behind her. But it wasn't hard to find the little blonde girl in the sea of beautiful deep brown and shiny black haired children.
Perhaps the highlight of this event was the raffle. Number after number was called while we sat and waited for the end to come. And then the our first raffle ticket number, 29-O, was called. To say I laughed hard was an understatement. My mom's 68 yr young aunt, realizing we'd one, grabbed the first child's arm she could find and began to drag her to the prize table. Our poor 2nd daughter, who is probably among the most timid of our crowd, kept looking back at us wondering what in the world was going on. All she knew was she was elbow deep in a culture where she doesn't speak the language, with a distant relative that doesn't really speak English, and we'd won a prize with a sibling's raffle ticket number. (She's also our stickler for following the rules, so claiming a sibling's prize just wasn't "right" to her!)
Then, another of our numbers was called. Another child was snatched away to the prize table at lightning speed. Then another…and another. Four out of our five won a prize. All the girls were thrilled with their hand wrapped gifts: hair bands and a pack of jacks.
After we left the school, the parade began. There were SO many people…like trying to leave Disney World right after the fireworks on a busy summer night. We were so thankful to have so many family members with us to keep up with the children. The towns people love to show off their skills and we saw faroles that were made to look like houses, one looked like a wood stove (complete with lit candles inside), another looked like a plantation home complete with Volcan Turrialba in the background putting off smoke. We were impressed.
Once the parade was complete, we all piled into our taxi and headed back to my great aunt's house…completely exhausted. What a night!
Our oldest child tends to be the barometer of the family and her parting words for the night were "Muy divertido" or "Very fun." What a treasure to share something my mom did as a child with the children. It was definitely a night to remember!