August 2nd is a national holiday here in Costa Rica. The day is set aside to honor the Patron Saint of the country, the Virgen de los Angeles. Any Catholic worth his or her salt that is physically able, makes a pilgrimage to the church where the Virgen originated in Cartago. On foot… Some folks make this journey from remote parts of the country. I personally saw quite a few people a day or two prior walking down the autopista coming from the West (Puntarenas or maybe much farther. Who knows?) so they could make it on time. For more information about the history of the holiday please click on this link:
Many Catholics who live in the San Ramon area make a similar pilgrimage on August 2nd, but it is a much more manageable journey. There is a beautiful area up in the hills north of San Ramon Centro called Los Angeles. It’s only fitting that San Ramon’s Los Angeles have it’s own religious gathering/ monster party to represent their namesake. So we decided that we just had to check this out for ourselves. The drive to LA usually only takes about 10 minutes from the center of town, but on this day it took closer to thirty minutes due to the gaggles of pedestrian traffic going both to and fro. Many hundreds, if not thousands of Ticos were making the pilgrimage to our own private Los Angeles to celebrate the Virgen. We popped onto the main drag and saw complete mania up ahead. There was no way I was going to drive up into the chaos directly, so we parked a safe distance back on the side of the road. As soon as we got close enough to see everything clearly, it was evident that it wasn’t only devout Catholics celebrating this country-wide day off. Every citizen within driving distance had apparently made it a point to be in Los Angeles to party. There were plenty of folks in and around the church, but there were also amusement park type rides, multitudes of vendors, a great band playing, non-stop dancing, and an abundance of beer. It was high noon, quite literally. If you look at the picture above on the right hand side you’ll get an idea about what I mean. The dancers are blurry in the shot but it’s not because I lack a steady hand. It’s because they’re moving faster than you will ever generally see any Ticos move. LOL! Costa Ricans really know how to fully enjoy and maximize the days off they’re blessed with.
We stayed for a couple of hours soaking up the atmosphere and wolfing down the excellent homemade food before we headed back towards the car. Hundreds of people were lined up at all times waiting for the next empty bus that would be making a run back down the hill to San Ramon. There was a fleet of buses and they were moving quickly, but the line was always packed and long. Check out the pic below on the left. Whether you took a bus, drove, biked, walked or even crawled it was something to behold. An interesting blend of religious reverance and unbridled celebration. We’ll probably be going again next year…