San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

There Goes the ‘Bride’

The invitation read: “Purita, daughter of Aquileo Verdugones and Helodia Manzanares, will marry Trampolín, son of Honorio Trampas and Devora Camaleón,” and gave the time and date. The ceremony would be in the plaza in front of the church. We were all looking forward to this wedding; it was bound to be fun.

A boda campesina, sometimes called a matrimonio campesino, is a play. It is also a tradition at village festivals and carnivals that has seen a revival in popularity in recent years. The setting is a country wedding with exaggerated awkwardness and incidents. It is all improvised, and each time it is unique.

This wedding was in Barrio San José de Alajuela, northwest of the capital, as part of the neighborhood’s 160th anniversary celebration, and, admittedly, the bride was long past prime marriageable age. She was all in white – white dress, white veil and white hair – and accompanied by her “mother and father.” Dad had his machete tied around the waist just in case he needed it, and a canteen of guaro in his back pocket, just in case he needed it. Mother wore her best housedress and loafers. Guests wore a mix of spangles, lace, traditional dress and work clothes. One couple had matching buckteeth. The priest, Father Cayetano, known as Padre Cayo, had the hiccups, which might have been the cause of the long delay at the altar, except for the fact that the groom failed to show up. At a boda campesina, anything goes.

The bride’s father, fortified by his flask and machete, tromped off after Trampolín and made sure he showed up. Instead of tying the knot, daddy knotted the tie and hauled the groom, dressed in an outgrown jacket and pants that didn’t quite reach the tops of his work boots, up to the bride.

At that, the wedding began. But it didn’t end. When the lady in the apple-green satin dress and matching hair ribbons rushed the altar to claim Trampolín as hers by virtue of their four children, the bride, seeing her last chance at wedded bliss blasted, attacked both with her bouquet of bougainvilleas on thorny stems. She sure showed Trampolín a sample of the fury of a woman scorned.

It seemed a shame to waste a good reception with music, food and guests, and the bride, once again single, found several willing dance partners.

Country weddings include anything outrageous enough to get a laugh: a reluctant groom, an eager bride, weary parents, a priest with his cassock buttoned wrong or inside out, lost rings, a male guest patting up the women, a cigar smoker fouling up the party, a fight and maybe a string of sausages for a wedding gift. At some, the whole town follows the wedding party to the make-believe church in a community hall or plaza.

Far from mocking real rural weddings, the boda campesina is an imaginative bit of fun that gives local folks a chance at playwriting and acting and brings the neighbors together for a good show.

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