by Lizzie Smith
If Costa Rica has a thousand ways to keep you on your toes, then Potrero has a thousand and one.
We all heard Fiestas coming to town before we saw them. Many of us had been to see the bull riding, horses, music, and fair food in neighboring communities during the past few weeks. However, this was the first time the Fiestas were coming to our little community and they were going to make sure they were properly announced. Fireworks echoed so loudly that all the volunteers – in their separate houses across town – were convinced they had to have been shot off directly next to wherever they lived. The drum group practiced at my neighbor’s house with a bass line so strong you could feel it.
You could also hear the Fiestas, in their own way, during the kid’s classes. The week before the event finally began, every student was either talking about seeing the bulls or being a bull rider when they grew up. Our youngest students discussed participating in the “tope infantile” – a horse race on wooden stick horses – while they practiced writing the letter D. Every student, from the tallest to the smallest, was infected with Fiestas excitement.
The party began Thursday night with multiple power outages because it would be too simple and too boring to start normally. I heard that people just used their cell phones to see and an enterprising visitor or two flicked on a car’s headlights for a little extra light and some creative problem solving. And the weekend was just beginning.
Friday and Saturday revolved around the Fiestas for most of us. I ate churros, watched my fellow volunteers perch on a fence where bulls ran at their feet, and felt like every time I turned around another AM student was there with a hug or advice on the best ride to check out. Middle school girls wore their nice dresses with well-styled hair and sheepish smiles on their faces when they were told they looked pretty. Saturday, Abriendo Mentes was swept into a small parade to the fiestas rings. The kids rode their stick horses behind an ox cart with the queen of Potrero as its star passenger. The cart may have gotten stuck when it tried to push into the ring and occasionally one of our little cowboys tried to ride away. It wasn’t perfect. It was a little chaotic, a little impromptu, a little unexpected.
And no one cared.
That’s because the best part of Fiestas in Potrero, our little town with just a touch over 400 residents, is the sense of community and place. When you live in a small town and just about everyone from that town is at the same event, it’s familiar faces everywhere. Even though we volunteers have a tendency to stand out, during Fiestas we were just the people who helped organize events for the kids and scrambled for a good watching spot too. We all giggled at how cute the kids were in their plaid shirts and boots and gasped when a bull ran at the fence.
We were all Fiesta visitors, just like everyone else.