International Studies students Maria (left) and Jessica (right) help children with painting.
On June 21, the community of San Luis de Monteverde celebrated its fiestas patronales in honor of San Luis Gonzaga, the town’s patron saint. Each year, mass is held on June 21, the actual Día de San Luis Gonzaga. On either the weekend before or the weekend following June 21, the community also holds festivities including food, games, and more. This year, activities were held on Saturday June 23 and Sunday June 24. On Saturday, there was a Bingo fundraiser with prizes, followed by songs in honor of San Luis Gonzaga. On Sunday, there was a recreational bike ride (the first of its kind in San Luis!) and activities for the children. In the afternoon, there were carreras de cinta, as well as an auction (mostly cattle, but also several chickens, a pig, and two ducks!) And of course, there was music and delicious typical food, including tamales and hot, homemade donuts, all day long.
One of the great things about this year’s festivities was that students from UGA Costa Rica were able to help out. Students from the International Studies program planned and led games for the children, including “pin the tail on the monkey,” duck-duck-goose, freeze tag, face painting, a piñata, and more. Students from Hendrix College and UGACR interns also joined in the festivities. In addition to interacting with community members, students were able to get a huge glimpse into the culture of this area. They were able to experience the dancing, food, language, and celebrations in honor of San Luis Gonzaga.
A big part of the celebration is the carreras de cinta. These races consist of a rope hung between two poles that houses several “belts” holding small metal rings. The object is to race a horse past the rope while trying to put a small stick into one of the rings. Needless to say, it’s very difficult. Before the races begin, people can pay to enter the carreras de cinta. (Luckily for the UGA students, getting on a horse is not actually required in order to participate!) The participants’ names (in this case, nearly 80 of them!) are entered into a list. Every time a rider has a turn, a name is called from the list. If the rider captures the ring, the person whose name was called wins a prize. All of the participants are also entered into a special raffle to win additional prizes.
When the day was over, it was hard to say goodbye to everyone. It was one of the most rewarding cultural experiences that students can receive while studying abroad. Hopefully, they’ll get to join in again one day.