San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Carnaval Celebrations Fill Streets of Limón

THE rhythmic sounds of calypso andreggae music beckon to all ushering in theCarnaval in Limón, a port city on theCaribbean coast, which begins today withthe crowning of the Carnaval Queen in theEddy Bermúdez gymnasium, next to thehospital Tony Facio, at 8 p.m.The weeklong event, filled with vibrantcolors, jubilant sounds and mouth wateringfoods, promises to providea taste of theCaribbean and somethingfor all in attendance.“Days are filled withsinging and dancing in thestreets, and not even therain can stop the festivities,”said Myrna Ortiz, a66-year-old Tica who hasattended past carnavales.“Days begin early at 5 a.m. when the simarronaplay music and let people know a newday has started. The beaches and the food,everything is happiness.”A beacon to not only residents fromacross the country, Carnaval attracts touristsfrom all over the world in search of a lifetimeexperience. With a sea of people floodingthe town, organizers have taken everymeasure to ensure happy memories.“Security will be guaranteed with helpfrom the Coast Guard providing a helicopterduring the day of the Carnavalparade,” said Jorge Rebello, executivedirector of the Carnaval Commission.“There will also be an increase in personnelat the events – a total of 430 (officers), whowill be dressed in clearly marked uniforms.”Throughout the week, typicalLimonese dishes, including rice and beansflavored with coconut and Caribbeanspices and fried plantains, will be on saleand area artists will show their work.SUNDAY is the Día de las Culturas, orCulture Day, highlighted by singing, dancingand calypso. The festival honors theSpanish, Indigenous, African, Italian andChinese who live in the area.Limon’s famous carnival dates back to1949 when Alfred Henry King returnedhome from Panama where he worked onthe canal locks.“Panama had carnival and so did othercountries, but always close to AshWednesday. We chose to have it Oct. 12 tocelebrate Columbus Day,” King said.Carnaval is a tribute to Columbus, anItalian working for the Spanish crown whocame to Limón in September 1502, and toall the immigrants who came later fromChina, North America, Europe and especiallyfrom Africa via the West Indies towork on the railroad and the banana plantations(TT, Oct. 10, 2003).THE first carnivals consisted of comparazasor groups dressed as skeletons andkings and queens who trotted down thestreets to drum beats. They were calledSinkits, a corruption of the name St. Kitts,the island home of many residents. Therewere also carozas or floats to carry the kingand queen and their court. Back then, it wasmostly an area festival.Today, Carnaval attracts bands, comparzasand crowds from all over, but King,at age 86, sits it out. He still cuts hair at hisbarbershop in the lower level of the BlackStar Line building in downtown Limón,once the warehouse and offices of MarcusGarvey’s Black Star shipping line and nowa restaurant and an Afro-Caribbean culturalcenter.Founded in the late 1800s as a port forexporting bananas and grains, Limón hassteadily grown and a recent influx of tourismbusinesses – including cruise ship lines – hashelped attract travelers from all over theworld, adding to the diversity off the city.Limón, a cultural mecca, is home toabout 90,000 people most of Afro-Caribbean descent. Not the most sceniclandscape in Costa Rica, Limón makes upfor natural shortcomings with a colorful,artistic, eclectic mix of people and personalities.To experience this weeklong event, usethe main road to Limón from San José,Highway 32, or the Guápiles Highway, it isabout a two-hour trip by bus or car.Carnaval Schedule:Oct. 8 – The crowning of theCarnival Queen at the EddyBermúdez Gymnasium, 8 p.m.Oct. 9 – A horse parade through thestreets from Cieneguita to the parkin Cariari, 11 a.m.Oct. 10 – Soccer matches playedon the beach in Cieneguita, 1 p.m.Oct. 11-13 – Days filled with culturalactivities and sports.Oct. 14 – A rock concert featuringLas Tortugas and Dacrew, 8 p.m.Oct. 15 – The children’s carnivaland roots concert at the fairgrounds,11 a.m.Oct. 16 – Carnaval’s grand finaleparade, 1 p.m. Concert featuringthe reggae rhythms of Marfil, 7 p.m.

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