The Guide to the Nosara Fiestas

In a tone usually reserved for the introduction of a world heavyweight boxing champion the announcers voice reverberates around the imposing, wooden amphitheater to notify Nosara tourists and locals of the creature’s stats: name, weight, home town, ring history and lineage. The gate is flung open and an infuriated 1600 pound combination of meat, muscle and horn explodes, bucking, bouncing and twisting into the circle. After around 8 seconds the rider is unceremoniously ejected from the bulls hulking frame. Enter the guy with the red towel, who, similar to the Spanish bullfighters muleta or the U.S rodeo clown is tasked with diverting the creature’s attention long enough so the fallen rider can, if still capable, retreat to safety. In a North American rodeo the rider’s painful rendezvous with the dirt usually signifies the end of the show. However, here, it marks the point where any resemblance between a U.S and Costa Rican rodeo begins and ends.

The still enraged bull is looking for payback, and a ring full of up to a hundred semi-sober, testosterone fuelled wannabe Johnny Knoxvilles makes for a target rich environment.  The participants, affectionately known as improvisados in this gladiatorial showdown range between thrill-seeking tourists (look for the guys clambering over the fence when reality bites) to seasoned natives raised in a culture of cattle psychology who pride themselves on their ability to predict the bull’s movements (look for the guys getting as close as possible to retrieve the cash prize object on the bulls horns.)

In any North American rodeo a ring full of young men looking to test their mettle in such circumstances would be a recipe for a string of lawsuits. But this isn’t the U.S, and if consuming your weight in cerveza and embarking on a potentially deadly game of chicken  is what gets you off then welcome to paradise. Just make sure you don’t  become the unwitting star of your own disaster movie.

Costa Rican rodeos may best be described as a mix of traditional bull riding, the Pamplona running of the bulls, and Jackass – on steroids. One comparison that afficionados will not tolerate is any association with “bull fighting.” In Costa Rica a rodeo bull, whether down it’s value as either a stud or merely a showman is a higly prized beast. Additionally, Costa Rican law deems it illegal to kill the animal. Either way, the net result is an immeasurably more humane version of it’s distant Spanish ancestor. Nowhere is this better highlighted than by the notion that while human injuries, and even deaths are par for the course, rarely if ever will you hear of an injured bull. Despite this these rodeos are not without controversy. The leading national daily “La Nacion” last year reported around 260 injuries and up to 70 hospitalizations. Additionally, organizers have occasionally come under fire for maltreatment of bulls. In response, the cattle owners claim that after a whole year spent mating and grazing in country pastures, a single night in the limelight is a small price to pay for a bull to earn its keep.

If at this point you’ve decided that the adrenaline of the Costa Rican fiestas are something you’d rather steer clear of then fear not. Although the bull ring constitutes the nucleus of the action the surrounding area of the fiestas is a G-Rated family affair with everything from live music and vendor stalls to incredible cuisine and fairground rides. In most cases fiestas culminate in a huge party with dancing, fireworks and a multitude of enjoyment options to satisfy all ages and tastes.

The Guanacaste peninsula which is considered the spiritual home of Costa Rican cattle culture. Although Nosara is more rural than some other locations the fiestas here are still considered one of the best places to check out some of Guanacaste’s baddest bulls facing off against some of the Guanacaste’s best riders. A variety of different rodeo fiesta locations in and around Nosara, from Nosara centro to Esperanza, increases your chances of being able to attend one of these fantastic fiestas. Stay tuned to Nosara.com for more details about where the next ones are happening.

Interested in learning more about Costa Rica’s culture? Check out some typical phrases used in our country!

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