Since 2002, the National Day of the Costa Rican Masquerade has been celebrated in Barva, located in the Heredia province. For two days the air is filled with live music accompanying traditional dances, while locals play traditional games
Barva lies in the province of Heredia in Costa Rica, and the area is famous for its folklore, adobe houses, coffee plantations, and remarkable artistic and cultural heritage. On top of all that, it is also famed for the crafts of its mask makers and the famous Masquerade festival.
During the National Day of the Masquerade visitors can see parades of mantudos, or clowns, accompanied by cimarronas, small bands of amateur musicians who play music for the masquerade procession as it parades through the streets.
The celebration is a well-loved tradition in Costa Rica with roots dating back to the country’s colonial era, and it continues to be popular today. The origin of the celebration lies in a combination of colonial festive practices and Costa Rican festivals involving giants and big-headed people, with influences from indigenous communities, merging to create a multicultural and syncretic festival. The masks represent different characters, locally known as mantudos, or clowns, and they traditionally walk through the streets of the villages during different folk and religious festivities, chasing the spectators and dancing to the rhythm of “cimarrona” music, to a backdrop of fireworks.
The Day of the Masquerade is organised by the Municipality of Barva, which encourages this celebration of the folklore of the local “Barveño” people. The Masquerade is so popular in the local area that even the municipal rubbish bins have masks instead of lids, and the signs on streets and avenues on every corner pay homage to the tradition.
The Giant, the Devil, Death, the Policeman and the Skull are some of the main masked characters, and they give the local mask-makers a chance to show off their work at the fair, which includes an exhibition of their crafts.
In addition to the mask-makers’ stands, the celebrations also include street food including chicken, Costa Rican chop suey (a dish made from mixed meat and vegetables, such as celery or green beans), fried rice, toffee apples, biscuits, churros, and more. Visitors can also enjoy the spectacle of local dances and traditional games.