San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Black Culture Festival Dedicated to Mr. King

THE rich and diverse cultural history and heritage of Limón are being celebrated this month for the seventh consecutive year with the annual Black Culture Festival. Since 1999, the Civic-Cultural Black Ethnicity Committee of Limón, whose mission, according to member Margaret Simpson, is “to recover and promote black culture, values and customs,” has organized month-long festivals throughout August to celebrate black Costa Rican culture.According to Simpson, one of the festival’s goals is cultural exchange.“The festival is not only for black people,” she said. “All Costa Ricans are invited.”The event kicked off July 28, with the essence of black Costa Rican culture celebrated through gospel, calypso and Caribbean poetry and dance performances. A variety of cultural events will take place this month, such as a storytelling event today, a youth talent show Aug. 18, and a beauty pageant Aug. 27.Ceremonies will also be hosted honoring characters who have played roles in black Costa Rican history, including Jamaicans Benjamin Lynch and Marcus Garvey. Lynch, after whom Limón’s public library is named, opened two schools within the first two years of his arrival in Limón, soon followed by the establishment of a library. Garvey operated the Black Star Line, an all-black steamship company, whose former office in Limón became Limón’s black culture center, which will host many of the festival’s events.This year’s festival is dedicated to beloved Limón community leader Alfred Henry Smith, who passed away three months ago at the age of 87 (TT, May 20). Smith, a.k.a. Mr. King, served on the Civic-Cultural Black Ethnicity Committee and is perhaps best known as the founder of Limón’s October carnival festival, which first took place in 1949.The festival, which organizers hope will be both educational and entertaining, will conclude with a grand parade on Black Culture Day, Aug. 31. For a complete listing of events, see the Calendar pages.

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