Interpretation

 

       The Annexation of Guanacaste Day “celebrates the annexation of the province of Guanacaste from Nicaragua in 1824 with fiestas, folk dances, topes, cattle shows, bullfights and concerts” (Costa Rica Tourism &Travel Bureau 2002). All of these activities reinforce Costa Rican cultural ideals: the love of music and dance, courtship rites, gender roles, and their peace-loving attitude. Culture is integrative; each aspect of culture: music and dance, courtship rites, gender roles, and attitudes influences one another. Therefore, it is understandable that many of the activities in the Guanacaste celebration reflect more than one cultural ideal and overlap.

         The love of music and dance, courtship rites and gender roles are demonstrated in the many typical dances of the Guanacaste celebration. “The dances and music that were imported with the annexation of Guanacaste province were adopted by all Costa Ricans…” and therefore reflect these cultural ideals (Glassman 1988: 23). Typical dances of the Guanacaste celebration include: the Cabillito nicoyano (Little Horse from Nicoya ), El torito (The Little Bull), and the national step dance, the Punto guanacasteco (Guanacaste dance step) (Helmuth 2000: 104-105). The Cabillito nicoyano and the Punto guanacasteco both reinforce courtship rites; while the El torito represents Costa Rican gender roles.

        The basis of the Cabillito nicoyano is courtship rites between a male cattle rancher and the woman he is trying to impress. The man in the dance is the cattle rancher and the woman is a colt that needs to be ‘captured.' The man follows the woman around in a circle attempting to lasso the ‘colt' (the woman) with his bandanna (Helmuth 2000: 104-105). “The dance ends with an intensifying chase as she twirls toward him, and is finally caught” (Helmuth 2000: 104-105). This dance is significant because it reflects the Costa Rican attitude towards courtship. In Costa Rica “flirting is a national past time” (Biesanz 1982: 101). When a boy likes a girl he will dando cuerda, in other words, he will make eyes at the girl, which involves staring at her for a long period of time. If the girl is interested she will look back (Biesanz 1982: 101). This method is demonstrated in the dance by the male cattle rancher following the woman around attempting to capture her. In Costa Rica , until the late 1940s dating procedures were very strict. Before the late 1940s, couples could not go on dates alone, but required the boy to come to the girl's home at which most encounters were chaperoned (Biesanz 1982: 101). Today, chaperonage has declined, allowing young people “a greater chance to meet members of the opposite sex” (Biesanz 1982: 101). Usually courtship begins at dances. Thus, courtship rites are displayed in the Cabillito nicoyano.

         The Punto Guanacasteco also reflects courtship rites and involves three phases that include different stages of courtship. One aspect of the dance involves “from time to time, all dancers paus[ing] in mid-dance and a male dancer shout[ing] out a witty sometimes racy…rhymed verse” (Helmuth 2000: 105). This dance reflects courtship rites because as mentioned previously flirting encompasses a large component of Costa Rican courtship and is also very flamboyant. The Punto Guanacasteco demonstrates these aspects of Costa Rican courtship.   

         Another dance of Guanacaste Day, the El torito reinforces and expresses Costa Rican gender roles, especially machismo. The dance involves a man and a woman, where the man is the bull and the woman is the bullfighter. (Helmuth 2000: 105). The man is “portrayed as a sort of spirited rogue, attempting to kiss her; while she showcases a graceful femininity oblivious to the danger the bull presents, and eventually dominates him…” (Helmuth 2000: 105). In Costa Rica “masculine and feminine roles are clearly defined in the family culture complex, which includes machismo” (Biensanz 1982: 9). Machismo focuses on the natural and inborn belief that men dominant over women in all aspects of life and women are subservient to the men. A woman's role in Costa Rican society is submissiveness, self-denial, and an “‘infinite capacity for humility and self-sacrifice'” (Biensanz 1982: 90). Basically from early childhood she is “taught to be, more homebound, weaker, more emotional, more vulnerable, and less intelligent than a boy. A boy is presumed to be, and…taught to be , more demanding, aggressive, and spoiled, and is freer to do as he wishes” (Biensanz 1982: 90). Additionally, according to machismo, since men are superior, “their masculinity is expressed in amorous conquests, daring feats, and freedom to do as they please.” On the contrary, women “must be soft and submissive, [and] willing to sacrifice their own pleasures for their families” (Biesanz 1982: 9). These gender roles are symbolized in the El tortito . In this dance the man or ‘bull' is a rebel attempting to get what he wants from the bull fighter, a kiss. This rebellious action, a ‘daring feat' and attitude of arrogance represents the machismo that exists in Costa Rican gender roles. Likewise, just as the woman/ bullfighter in the dance displays ‘graceful femininity,' the Costa Rican woman also portrays herself in a feminine submissive manner. In the dance the woman is oblivious to the danger of the bull. In actual Costa Rican society women are unaware of the injustices that are being placed upon them. They are also oblivious or are in agreement with the machismo way of thinking. In fact, “even the University women…polled believe, three to one, that ‘women ought to have less liberty than men.' Thirty-seven out of forty males agreed” (Biensanz 1982: 101). These thoughts are a result of hegemony. Meaning that since these women have been taught that machismo is normal and is the way of life, they do not protest it. Thus, the El torrito is a very significant aspect of Guanacaste Day because it reinforces machismo and many other aspects of gender roles.

         Bullfights in Costa Rica also reflect the cultural ideals of machismo, as well as the peaceful attitude that Costa Ricans possess. “Peace is one of Costa Ricans' dearest values…and they consider Costa Rica a tranquil haven in a violent world, and their hackles rise when anything smacking of militarism occurs” (Biesanz 1982: 9). Ticos also dislike confrontation and conflict. In fact, “raised voices are seldom heard, fights rarely seen, and Ticos will nod or say ‘Sí' even when they don't mean it, simply to avoid conflict” (Biesanz 1982: 9). The bullfights of the Guanacaste celebration reflect this peace-loving attitude. The Tico style of bullfighting involves: “young unarmed men teas[ing] a small bull or cow around an impoverished ring for a few minutes. Then the animal is lassoed and removed and replaced by another”(Biesanz 1982: 163). This style of bullfight differs drastically from those in Spain which often entail violence. In Costa Rica the bull is not killed at all. “These corridas serve as comedy acts as well as displays of skill or daring, though too much …desire to show off leads some men to risk injury” (Biesanz 1982:163). The main aim here is for the boys to demonstrate their manliness and appear daring. They feel as though they need to show their strength and bravery due to the machismo value system. “Their great degree of freedom allows them—and social pressures motivate them—to demonstrate machismo on the soccer field, in the bull ring, in traffic, and in sexual relationships” (Biesanz 1982: 100). Thus, the bullfights of Guanacaste Day reflect the machismo as well as the peace-loving attitude of the Costa Ricans.

 

 

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