San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

North Americans Celebrate Their Countries

National pride came with a dollop of appreciation for Costa Rica this week as North Americans living here took time to remember their roots.

Canadians, Costa Ricans and friends of other nationalities celebrated Canada Day Saturday at the Cervecería Costa Rica in Alajuela, northwest of San José. Three days later, U.S. citizens and their families enjoyed the annual Fourth of July Picnic organized by the American Colony Committee in the same location.

On the surface, the parties were as different as ketchup and maple syrup, but a closer look revealed the diverse groups of partygoers shared in common an appreciation for their Central American stomping grounds.

Several hundred Canadians, Ticos and others gathered Saturday at the Cervecería, ate and talked and challenged each other in an apple pie-baking contest. Sandrine Jullian, who is French, won the contest with a southern French-style apple pie.

A band from Matapalo, a community in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, entertained the crowd with traditional Guanacaste music and the national anthems of both Canada and Costa Rica.

A visiting Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer, without his horse but in full uniform, was the image of Canada at the event. Kane von Kramer also met with children in San José schools and the National Children s Museum during his four-day stay. Later in the day, Canada Day revelers settled in to watch France defeat Brazil in the World Cup quarterfinals.

The Canada Day celebration raised $8,000 to benefit Costa Rican schools and children s organizations through the event s entrance fees, corporate sponsorships and the sale of toys, raffle tickets, food and drinks. Canadian bank Scotiabank, which operates in Costa Rica, presented a check for $5,000.

The Fourth of July Picnic offered free food and beer to thousands of U.S. citizens and their families Tuesday amid a full-scale carnival atmosphere.

At the American Colony Committee s biggest annual event, the Cervecería was filled with U.S. citizens who danced, played competitive volleyball, tossed water balloons and together consumed bushels of hotdogs and gallons of beer.

Guido Salguero and his partner Ana-Isabel Videche enjoyed the Fourth of July celebration as a chance to participate in the traditions of their adopted country while back in their homeland. The Tico pair spent 30 years in Anaheim, California, while Salguero worked for Coca-Cola before returning home to Costa Rica.

It is nice to enjoy a little part of the United States in Costa Rica, Salguero said, adding that he only misses the fireworks that are traditionally part of the celebration in the United States.

Remembering Their Roots

Both picnics offered longtime Costa Rican residents the opportunity to reconnect with their roots in their adopted country.

I ve been here for nearly eight years and I like to celebrate with Canadians, Quebec native Denis Gaudet said at the festivities Saturday. Being with Canadians gives him a chance to practice his English, which the francophone said he rarely gets being married to a Tica.

Bob Wilmarth, a veterinarian who came to Costa Rica 23 years ago to do Christian missionary work with his wife Janet, expressed a similar sentiment.

You see a lot of your paisanos, he said, using the Spanish word for countrymen. It s good to see the combination of the two (countries). I like the way we honor our host country, said Wilmarth, whose missionary work includes a community breeding program called Goats for God.

At their respective picnics, Canadian Ambassador Mario Laguë and U.S. Ambassador Mark Langdale emphasized Costa Rica s similarity to Canada and the United States.

Laguë said celebrating Canada Day in Costa Rica is special because Canada shares political philosophies with Costa Rica.

We are pretty much on the same wavelength, he said, naming peace and human rights as values that Costa Rica emphasizes and to which many Canadians relate.

Langdale said it is incredible to celebrate the Fourth of July in Costa Rica, which shares a long history of democracy with the United States.

Participants at both picnics enjoyed the events as a chance to reflect on their location and the path that brought them here.

Signs at the Canada Day event were in English, French and Spanish, and both events featured the Costa Rican national anthem alongside the O, Canada and The Star Spangled Banner respectively.

Fred Boden, president of the Canadian Club, said the Canada Day picnic represents a chance to share nostalgia for home while appreciating Costa Rica.

It s an occasion to regroup and talk and remember how cold it is up there, he said with a laugh.

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