Many foreigners who are living here are not aware of the number of important events that take place every October in Costa Rica. In addition to the traditional holidays, this year marks a couple of special anniversaries and birthdays, one of which falls on an important date for me.
October 12th is el Día de las Culturas (Columbus Day or Día de la Raza) ) held to honor all of the peoples who make up Costa Rica’s culture. It is a day to celebrate the values and cultural idiosyncrasies and contributions of the country’s peoples of indigenous, European, African and Asian descent. In the past, Costa Rica, like most of the Americas, observed a day in October as Christopher Columbus’s discovery of America. In Costa Rica October 12 was called El Día de la Raza, Race Day, a celebration of the human race as well as Columbus’s voyages. However, Costa Rica’s concept of this important date changed over the years. It now encompasses all the peoples who make up the country’s culture so the name was changed to the Día de las Culturas to commemorate their invaluable contributions.
October 18th is the 200th birthday of the city of San José. This day is an especially memorable one for me since it is also my son’s birthday. He was born October 18, 1988 during Hurricane Juana which caused a lot of destruction in Central America. Fortunately, most of the damage was from the rain and not the strong winds.
This month is also the 200th anniversary or bicentennial of the founding of the Municipality of the city of Alajuela, which is the second largest city in Costa Rica after the capital, San José. A lot of activities will take place in the city to celebrate this historic event. Most of the celebrations will be held in and around the city’s parks. Alajuela will also be celebrating the 215 birthday of its cathedral this month.
San Jose’s famous Melico Salazar Theater is celebrated its 85 birthday on October 13 (coincidentally my late father’s birthday). Originally called the Teatro Raventós (teatro means theater in Spanish), the building was inaugurated on October 13, 1928. The plan was to inaugurated the structure on the 12 of October but the rain (What a surprise!) delayed the performers who arrived a day later. On April 23, 1967 the theater was partially destroyed by fire. The owners lacked the money to make the necessary repairs and building ended up being abandoned for almost ten years. In December of 1981 with the performance of the opera Carmen, the remodeled theater was open but under the name Teatro Medico Salazar in honor of a Costa Rican Tenor that lived between 1887 and 1950. This year to celebrate the theater’s anniversary the Ministry of Culture has organized a week of events culminating with a concert by Costa Rica’s Philharmonic Orchestra.
If you have never visited the theater it is located across from the northeast corner of the city’s Central Park. I always try to point out the theater to the participants on my monthly Central Valley relocation/retirement tour when we pass thorough the heart of the city while sightseeing.
October is also the anniversary of a famous national dish called, chifrijo. On October 22, 1979 this dish officially became a local sensation. In case you don’t know chifrijo is a mixture of “tender” beans, small pieces of chicharrón (fried crunchy pork) and chimichurrí ( usually made from chopped tomato, white onion, and chili peppers and sometimes called pico de gallo). This dish is got its name from the “chi” in the words chicharrón, chile and chimichurri, and for frijo from frijoles which are the main in ingredients.
Rounding out the October festivities is Halloween. Judging by the number of costume parties that take place, this event is becoming more and more popular with children, young adults and even expats. If you live here just look in the local Spanish newspapers to see where Halloween-related activities are going to be held. There are even a couple of really “risqué” costume parties involving body painting in a few establishments located in or near the “gringo gulch” area of San José. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.