El Gran Tope (Horse Parade)

Every year in San Jose, the day after Christmas is marked by one of the most popular events in Costa Rica. It is called “El Gran Tope Nacional” and is considered part of Costa Rican folklore. El Gran Tope is a parade honoring riders while showing off their fancy horses and equestrian finery. In addition, during the first few months of the year, similar Gran Tope events are held at various smaller communities around the country. This year in the Southern Pacific region it was held on Easter Sunday in Uvita, a small pueblo about 20 minutes south from where we live. Since Ellen is still in the States, I thought it would be a nice way for me to spend my Sunday afternoon. So, I grabbed my camera and went to see what it was all about.

Horses arrived by truck, trailer and on hoof

Horses arrived by truck, trailer and on hoof

The horse parade begins down the main street in Uvita

The horse parade begins down the main street in Uvita

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Riders of all ages took part in El Gran Tope

Riders of all ages took part in El Gran Tope

This tradition goes all the way back to the turn of the 20th century. During that time the United Fruit Company imported cattle that they used in the banana plantations. When the cattle arrived to the ports the company would send riders to round them up (“topar” in Spanish). As the years passed, the Tope became a parade where the riders would show off their most prized possessions to the public. The first Tope took place in 1958 and since then it has become a tradition in Costa Rica. Popular horse breeds in Costa Rica include the Creole, the Iberoamericana, the Paso Fino and the Pure Spanish Breed. Many of these horses exhibit fancy, high stepping gaits, which I understand are actually natural gaits some breeds are born with.

One of the beautiful high stepping horses

One of the beautiful high stepping horses

This horse was almost dancing down the street

This horse was almost dancing down the street

True to form in Costa Rica, the parade didn’t start on time.  It was advertised to take place between 11:00 and 1:00, but it wasn’t until shortly after 2:00 pm that it got underway.  (Hey, more time to have some lunch and drink some beers!)  There were at least 100 horses and riders taking part in the event and it looked like everyone was having a great time.  I know I did!

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A Visit to the U.S.

Waiting to board our plane at San Jose Airport

Waiting to board our plane at San Jose Airport

On April 1st, we flew back to NC to visit family and friends!!!  We were in Chapel Hill for just one day and then drove to PA to visit my grandmother for an early birthday celebration.  She turns 97 on April 11th!  Gammy is doing very well; she is an inspiration to us all.  It was a great visit.  We were very fortunate to overlap one night with my sister, her oldest daughter, son-in-law and grandson (who is 5 months old) from MN.  It was wonderful seeing them all!!  We all left a bit tired, but it was worth it, for sure.

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We drove back to Chapel Hill on April 5th and it’s been a busy time ever since we returned. We have been catching up with our children, other family and of course our friends.  We have also been shopping for supplies, too.  My list is a long one!

Eddie returns to Costa Rica on April 16th and I will return on May 1st.  I have extended my trip in order to visit my cousin Catherine and her parents in MI.  They all are very special to me and I decided this was a good time to see them.

So, our adventures in Costa Rica are on hold for a little bit. When we are back into the swing of things there, we plan to take a horseback riding tour along the beach…hope we have a nice sunset tour like the one we photographed.

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