Easter, throughout the greatly Catholic countries of Latin America, is celebrated with masses, processions and the traditional rites that accompany the resurrection of Christ next Sunday.
In Costa Rica the Metropolitan Cathedral in San Jose started the week’s festivities with the procession of Palm Sunday—a tradition untouched for over two hundred years.
The Costa Ricans take their Easter week seriously, and to make sure that people are observing the faith, the country still has a “dry law,” which prohibits commercial establishments from selling or serving alcohol on Thursday and Friday. To keep the sentiment alive, scores of police are in charge of going around from one establishment to the rest putting yellow crime-scene tape around the bottles in the bars.
But in Guanacaste, Easter is commemorated in a more autochthonous, unique way. Every Friday, the citizens of Ortega de Bolson, near Santa Cruz go on a “lagarteada” or crocodile hunt. The hunt originated in the 19th Century, when the medicinal properties of the crocodile Crocodylus acutus were in great demand and the captured animal was sacrificed for its healing qualities. For decades now, and no one is ever quite sure since when, the animal is hunted down in the tributaries of the Tempisque River, and with its muzzle safely forced shut with a length of mecate, or rope, the animal is carried atop shoulders in a triumphant march into town, exhibited in an enclosed area and then released on Resurrection Sunday.
Environmental activists oppose the practice, as they argue the animal is removed from its habitat by force. In 2008, the country’s first Constitutional Chamber, the Sala IV, studied a motion to prohibit the activity…but threw it out. That year, the townspeople caught a 3.5-meter crocodile. In 2009, the animal was caught in its lair some 6 meters underwater: it measured a whopping 5 meters!
– Zoraida Diaz