Cultures Day Celebration
We can address the elephant in the room first, this is a very controversial holiday but at the same time we can celebrate our cultural diversity and roots, and acknowledge that Christopher Columbus came to
We can address the elephant in the room first, this is a very controversial holiday but at the same time we can celebrate our cultural diversity and roots, and acknowledge that Christopher Columbus came to the continent many centuries ago.
Several countries have also revamped the celebration, thanks to the involvement of activists; that is why you will find different names such as Day of the Americas, Pan-American Day, Indigenous Peoples Day, Day of Indigenous Resistance, etc. Colombia, for example, kept the name “Día de la Raza”.
Costa Rica also called the festivity “Día de la Raza” for many years until it was changed to Cultures Day in 1994, the new law promoted the “pluricultural and multi-ethnic character of the people of Costa Rica.” It also mentions the arrival of Columbus but today is not about him, it is about the “historical and cultural ties that bind the nations of Latin America” as stated in the document as well.
Costa Rican Heritage
The nation’s history and international recognition includes more than its biodiversity, we are also rich in culture. Our heritage does not come just from Spain, but from other different ancestors that lived here since the beginning: indigenous tribes and the ones that came after. While our official language is Spanish, there are other first languages such as Bribrí, Cabécar, Maleku, Mekatelyu and even Chinese and English.
The UCR (Universidad de Costa Rica) revealed in a study that the genetics of the 21st century Costa Ricans are mainly composed of four ancestries: the European, the African, the Amerindian, and the Asian. The studies concluded that Costa Ricans are 45.6% European, 33.5% Amerindians, 11.7% African, and 9.2% Asian.
There are eight indigenous groups, and they are called Cabécares, Bribris, Ngäbe, Térrabas, Borucas, Huetares, Malekus, and Chorotegas. There is also migratory populations from Nicaraguan and Panamanian tribes. Costa Ricans, who identify themselves as part of these indigenous groups, represent 2.2% of the total population, they live in 24 territories, and speak in 6 indigenous languages.
Even though what you see advertised as the typical Costa Ricans are “sabaneros” (Costa Rican cowboys) in the great Pampa Guanacasteca, we must not forget that we are so much more diverse: from the artisanal fishermen of the Pacific coasts, to the different cultures of the Central Valley that, despite being a city, you will find a notable distinction between one Province and the other, all through the varied population of the Caribbean coasts.
Just like the variety in ethnicities, our gastronomy and musical flavor have been influenced by different tastes and ingredients from all over the world. Today we celebrate our diversity in all its forms, which combined with the steady stream of migration from other countries shape modern Costa Rica.
What about the festivities?
Before the pandemic, the celebrations in Costa Rica were live. The province of Limón starts activities in the week prior to the 12th with a colorful carnival full of dancing and cultural demonstrations. Throughout Costa Rica, you would see dancing and singing.
People lining the streets to watch and cheer on the “beauty queens,” marching bands and brightly colored costumes, along with very colorfully dressed and extremely coordinated dance troupes; this was what you could be part of in the pre-COVID Caribbean.
Are there closures for the day?
Government offices and most banks will be closed, but you can always check online, they usually announce on their official sites which will be open. Supermarkets and other stores will remain open, although their schedule may change, you can also check their social media to confirm their hours of operation.
It is a worthy discussion, to consider why we celebrated the man who committed atrocities against our ancestors. But more than that, we should instead move forward by celebrating the native indigenous peoples of our country and the entire continent.
Let’s make October 12, a day when we can celebrate those who contributed to this magnificent mosaic, whether if it is in Costa Rica, Panama or Canada.
Organizations that you can support:
If you know any other Indigenous Human Rights Organizations, please leave their names in the comments so that we can add them to the list.
Written in collaboration with Pablo Brenes.