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Tope fills the streets of San José with a traditional celebration of cowboy culture

Thousands of horseback cowboys and cowgirls paraded down San José’s main avenue as part of the annual National Tope on Thursday.

Horse fanatics and families lined stands and sidewalks for the parade’s four-kilometer stretch. Goosestepping, sidestepping, and pirouetting horses wowed the crowds. The more gregarious riders offered young parade-goers brief photo-opportunity rides. Spectators and riders wore cowboy attire, from simple flannel shirts to the costume of famous horsemen such as Zorro and Pancho Villa.

An estimated 5,000 riders transformed Avenida Segunda and Paseo Colón from its exhaust-filled gridlocked norm to the atmosphere of a country fair, including the authentic aroma. According to the daily La Nación, authorities predicted approximately 600,000 attendees.

With presidential and legislative elections less than two months away, political parties joined with their own teams of horses. Former San José mayor and National Liberation Party nominee Johnny Araya nimbly rode through the parade shaking hands and hearing the occasional heckle of an opposing candidate’s name. Otto Guevara and a team from the Libertarian Movement Party also attended. The Accessibility Without Exclusion Party’s candidate, Óscar López, rode sporting an anti-abortion t-shirt.

San José police and the National Police blanketed the event. There was a dearth of street vendors in the crowd, normally a fixture at crowded cultural events in Costa Rica. Though many street vendors one block away on Avenida Central switched to offering cowboy-themed wares.

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