San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Palmares Fiestas Begin Despite Controversies

The annual fiestas in Palmares were given approval just a few hours before the event’s highly publicized start this week. The coffee town of Palmares, an hourand-a-half drive northwest of San José, kicked off its annual festival of bull riding, beer, fireworks, concerts, horse shows, traditional costumes and dancing Wednesday.

Though Palmares Mayor Mario Rojas had denied festival permission, citing environmental concerns, the Technical Secretariat of the Environment Ministry (SETENA) gave the go-ahead in the nick of time.

Scheduled to run through Jan. 22, the festivities will include a variety of musical acts, including this year’s featured guest, Mexican singer Pedro Fernández. Concerts by Hector “El Father” from Puerto Rico and the Spanish group Hombres G are also on the program. A mix of music ranging from more traditional Latin beats to reggaeton will hit the stage for the Grand Carnival Jan. 19.

The bullring will stay wild throughout the 13 days, highlighted by an afternoon of bullfighters donned in Spanish-style garb flagging bulls this Sunday. (Bulls are not killed in Tico bullfighting events.) Sporting events will include the fiestas’ second annual mountain bike competition, set for 9 a.m. tomorrow; a first-time women’s soccer tournament planned for Jan. 17 at 6 p.m.; and a 13.5-kilometer run open to everyone, Jan. 20 at 3 p.m.

In recent years, the festival has lost some of its family-friendly appeal. Teen barflies, loud discos and numerous drunk-driving accidents have tainted the festival’s image.

In 2005, the Palmares Civic Association (ACP), which organizes the fair, introduced better parking, increased bus and shuttle service and asked bartenders to not serve inebriated guests (TT, Jan. 14, 2005).

A police force of at least 500 will be on hand throughout the festival, which is expected to draw more than 1 million attendees, civic association spokesman Eduardo Rojas said this week.

Despite these improvements, the Palmares environmental association criticized the festival, mentioning concerns

about water and noise pollution and trash disposal.

SETENA has asked organizers to pay a ¢3.9 million deposit, hire an environmental manager and guarantee they will be responsible for cleaning up garbage and controlling noise levels.

For full schedule of events, see the Calendar pages in the Weekend section or


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