In 2019, Costa Rica celebrated the 50th anniversary of its iconic Fiestas de Zapote.
The week-long festivities — part carnival, part parade and part Tico-style bullfight — included the “Tope Nacional,” the country’s biggest horse parade. A holiday tradition for many Ticos, it hosted about 5,000 riders and their equine companions decked out in their finest.
Meanwhile, at the Campo Ferial in the eastern San José district of Zapote, more than 30 different mechanical rides and myriad food stands, bars, tamale vendors and other attractions thrilled tens of thousands of visitors each night.
For many, the biggest attraction was “toros a la Tica” — a Costa Rican style of bullfighting.
Costa Ricans packed the stands (and watched on national TV) as brave members of the public who signed up as amateur bullfighters, or improvisados, provoked the bull, dodged attacks and competed for prizes — and recognition from the crowd.
The bullfights in Costa Rica — controversial despite efforts not to physically injure the animals — go back to the colonial era, when they emerged together with the development of livestock and Spanish influence.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, there will be no Fiestas de Zapote in 2020. Right now, each hospital bed is essential — and adding a few gored improvisados won’t help a saturated health system.
Instead, we’ll enjoy the end of 2020 in a more socially distant (but decidedly less entertaining) fashion, with the hope that next year will feature the bright lights, the carneys, and the people who dare to go face-to-face with a 500 kg beast that has two weapons growing out of its head.