This last weekend in Puerto Viejo was spent celebrating the Afro-Caribbean culture of the area. There were parades, food, movies and dancing in the streets. Parades in Puerto Viejo are unlike anything seen in the U.S. They mostly consist of bands that are almost entirely drums and people walking along with the bands. Streets are not cleared out and often there are cars parked along the side or even driving through the middle. Sometimes, as happened this weekend, people walking are dressed up. In this case the men, women and children who marched were all dressed in the costumes of their heritage.
The black population in Costa Rica runs anywhere from 1% to 3% of the population depending on the source cited. Almost the entire population resides in the Limon province where I live. Afro-Caribbeans came to Costa Rica in the late 1800’s to mid 1900’s primarily to work on the railroad and then on the banana plantations. Until 1949, blacks were not allowed to go up and over the mountain into San Jose but were confined to the eastern shores. There is still a great deal of prejudice towards the black population and government services seem to be allocated last to the Limon province. Poverty and the high school drop out rate are the highest in the country.
The community elders were honored on Saturday night and the stories of their settling this area were very moving. Most have lived their entire life right here in Puerto Viejo earning a living fishing, selling goods, or by whatever means they could figure out to take care of their families.
Hollywood celebrities Danny Glover, Alfre Woodard, and Delroy Lindo came to town to help with the celebration. Movies that showcased the actors were shown and they hung out with the people around town for three days.
During the parade we saw lots of our friends who were also out on the town enjoying the festivities. Our neighbors Beatey and Juni were having a great time as were a multitude of others It was a great time to be in Puerto Viejo!!