The Crowning of the Queen
The 12-day Festejos Patronales San Ramón 2012 (Festivities of the Patron Saints of the San Ramón Parrish) kicked off on Friday, August 24th, but preparations began much earlier. Not only did it take over a month to build the temporary structures, staging, booths, and cooking facilities, each neighborhood in the cantón of San Ramón was busy raising funds for the needy of the parrish. We were given an introduction to this part of the festivities by Vilmar, the visiting nurse from our EBAIS (local clinic). He explained to us that each neighborhood or district nominates a candidata (candidate) to run for La Reina (the queen of the festival). Think of it like the Miss America pageant, but instead of the states sending their local pageant winners, 24 barrios of San Ramon county sent their candidates. The big difference, though, is that these candidates aren’t judged on their beauty, talent, or how they look in a swim suit. To be a candidata, a woman must be at least 35 year of age, be of high moral character, be married in the Catholic Church and never divorced, have children, and be a servant of the Church.
And each candidata is responsible for raising money. Though Vilmar works in the district of Santiago, he and his family live in the district of Piedades Norte, and they devoted their energies to making over 1,000 tamales to sell to raise funds for the candidata of Piedades Norte. We bought 70 tamales for ourselves and our neighbors, and purchased a raffle ticket, to help them in their efforts.
So, on the 24th of August, we were invited to join Vilmar and his family for the Grandioso Baile de Coronación (Grand Coronation Ball). We didn’t know what to expect, just that the queen of the 2012 festivities would be crowned.
The Community Center in Santiago was transformed for the celebration with a stage, fresh flowers, cloth drapes, special lighting, and a live band playing Latin music. There must have been about 400 people there – young and old — dancing, talking and having fun. People were wearing everything from blue jeans and mini-skirts to their Sunday finest. We only saw one other Gringo there, a young exchange student who was dancing with her Tica friends. After about 30 minutes, the 24 candidatas entered the hall. They were announced individually by name, barrio, age, and number of children. Most of the candidatas were in their 60s and 70s, however one was as young as 36 and another as old as 82. One was the mother of 11 children. They were dressed in their finest clothes, some in evening gowns, and all with a burgundy sash identifying them as the candidata for their barrio or district. Following the 2012 candidatas, La Reina 2011 entered the room wearing the corona (crown), and shortly after, she and her husband went to the dance floor to officially open the Ball. The music, dancing, and happy atmosphere made it a fun night. The music style was tropical, with the band playing lots of salsa and meringue, with some Rumba and Pasa Doble thrown in. There were even fireworks shot off just outside the hall in celebration.
But of course, the highlight was the crowning of this year’s queen — la Señora San Ramón 2012. As in true pageant style, there were awards given to the first and second runners-up, as well as to the candidata deemed most photogenic and most sympatica (think “Miss Congeniality”). The deciding factor for who would be queen, however, was the amount of money raised by each candidata and her church. Finally the big moment arrived and the winner was announced – La Reina 2012 was the candidata from Piedades Norte! Everyone at our table cheered and Vilmar was ecstatic, you would have though he won himself. We told him we would get him a crown from Burger King and vote him the King of the Festivities.
Paul and I were honored to have been a part of this very Tico event in our very Tico town of San Ramón. Living in the culture, and being part of the community, is important to us and one of the big reasons we’re in Costa Rica.
Yesterday was the highlight of the festivities, with the procession of the patron saints around the central park and their entry into the Church. It’s one of the biggest days of the year in San Ramón and people come from all over the county and beyond – young and old, entire families.
On this day, every church and every organization with a patron saint takes part in this parade, led by Catholic priests and the statue of San Ramón Nonato, the patron saint of the town of San Ramon. Each barrio (neighborhood) was represented by their patron saint, either carried on a platform on people’s shoulders, on the back of a truck, on a trailer, or even transported in the bucket of a backhoe. The bomberos (firemen) brought their patron saint on top of a shiny red fire engine. There were the patron saints of the feria de agricultura (farmers’ market), education, music, the disabled, coffee growers, the municipal government, and many, many more. The procession was religious but not solemn; festive in spirit, with mariachis, marching bands, dancing, and lots of kids. Many in the crowd wore red and white, the colors of the festival. It was an occasion to celebrate family, community, and friendships in this special place called San Ramón. Here are two minutes of some of the highlights. Pura vida!