The raucous Palmares Festival kicked off Thursday with the tope, a traditional horse parade. Not surprisingly, some of the country’s presidential candidates made appearances there.
If taking the equine vote can determine a country’s president, ruling party candidate Johnny Araya has just moved into the lead. Araya and fifth-place candidate Rodolfo Piza asked for votes while on horseback at the event, not an uncommon method of stumping here. Yes, from atop a high horse.
Araya – who is from the northwestern Central Valley coffee town of Palmares – has been doing the tope circuit for years, though this is the first time the ex-San José mayor has done so as a presidential candidate.
In late December, Araya participated in the Tope Nacional in the capital. There he was joined by candidates Piza, Oscar López, José Manuel Echandi and one of his top rivals, Otto Guevara.
Guevara, atop the horse Rómulo and ever the heartthrob, rode through a crowd of swooning women. La Prensa Libre sighingly described the scene, saying “As per usual Guevara took the catcalls of hundreds of women.” The Libertarian Movement Party candidate is tied with Araya and José María Villalta, of the Broad Front Party, in the latest presidential poll.
The tope is a captivating tradition. Candidates are wise to show up there. But what about discussing your platform. Is a horse parade the right place to be taken seriously when speaking about an issue, like say, abortion? López thought so last month.
“The tope was very pretty, very well organized and I got to ride the horse La Curul, while promoting my message ‘No to Abortion,'” López told La Prensa Libre.
Piza, of the once-strong Social Christian Unity Party, attempted to gain ground in the race by riding again at Palmares. In an interview during La Nación’s live broadcast of the Tope, Piza pleaded for votes while on a steed named Caché.
Piza proudly posted his ride to Instagram as a photomontage. Maybe the maneuver will endear himself more with Costa Ricans. Showmanship can work in any election in the world. Still, there’s something farcical about a candidate posting a collage of himself on a horse, as if he were a teenager pasting them into a diary, and appending the photos with the pointless phrase: #UnPresidenteSerio. “A Serious President”