On our way home from The Road to Volcan Barva, we passed a festival in
Barva San Pedro’s town square. Last night, when I wrote this, I identified this village as Barva. This morning, Mr. I-Know-Where-I-Am-And-You-Don’t informed me it is the village of San Pedro.
Sorry… I thought it was Barva. My internal compass is of no use to me. I can find Hell’s Kitchen in a New York minute. Manhattan is laid out in that nice grid. But in Costa Rica, I almost never know where I am. Unless I’m home.
"I’m home, right, honey?"
But it’s easy for us regular Joes to be confused: every town in Costa Rica, no matter how small, no matter how grand, has a main square and they all look amazingly similar. You’ll find a church or cathedral with a huge patch of land in front of it.
Occasionally that patch of grass has been made into a soccer field (can’t waste a good patch of grass!) But mostly these squares serve as the town gathering place, a big pretty park. There are benches, a fountain(s), pathways and landscaping. More prosperous towns have more extravagant parks. But EVERY town has one.
San Pedro is a tiny village, a blip in the road. The square is a sweet small-town affair. We pass thru San Pedro – and Barva, Birri, barrio Jesus to name a few – on our way home, as well as several other villages. Every night, all the squares are full of people. Old people sitting on the benches, young people strolling or hanging out.
Young parents with little kids unning around. People chatting, visiting.
Costa Ricans are big visitors. Since most families don’t have TV and almost nobody has a computer, they are outside at night. Not inside glued to a screen. Like our family. That was always the unexpected bonus during power outages in the keys: from 5pm to dark, neighbors were outside strolling, talking to neighbors. Nothing else to do. Those were the good ol’ days!
This day, there was a "happening" at the square in San Pedro. Lots of people, live music, horses, refreshments, costumes… irresistible. We stopped to take in the sights, but couldn’t figure out the reason for the party. It didn’t seem to be religious although dollars to donuts it was. There had obviously been something of a parade. Even the trees were freshly "chalked" – I love that decorating idea!
The live music was an impromptu jam session with horns – lots ‘o horns – drums and singin’. I filmed one of their numbers: you can see the video here! I call it "Dreaming of Skipper." Brings to mind Thoreau’s* quote, "The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best." So very true! The music is not great. Actually painful at moments if you are lookin’ for the BeeGees…
What I loved about my experience at the park that afternoon – and indeed, about my time here to date – is that the ticos have room for each other. A gentle tolerance and care. (Unless they are driving.) If a bunch of guys want to get together and play music a little out of tune and a little too loudly for an afternoon, fine. It’s their park, too. We Americans could learn from this.
*I’ve attributed this saying to Thoreau ever since I bought a greeting card for Rita Brown with this on it back in the early ’80’s… I did a search on the www just to doublecheck the author and find it’s attributed to Henry Van Dyke (most often), Bernard Meltzer, William Blake, John Muir, a Yiddish Proverb, anonymous and, yes, Thoreau. Brainyquote attributed it to Van Dyke and Meltzer. So does anyone know who said this FIRST? Saltshaker (see comments below) says Yiddish…