(Written July 2)
Costa Rica has never had the kind of typical Spanish heavy Catholic influence you see elsewhere in Latin America, and its society tends to be relatively liberal. However, it remains a fairly socially conservative society in many respects. Which is why I was impressed and honored to witness the largest Gay Pride parade in Costa Rican history while stopping briefly in San Jose.
Same-sex marriage is still outlawed in this country, yet crowds packed the streets down several blocks of the city’s main drag, waving rainbow flags. Couples–men, women, anything in between–marched proudly hand in hand. Floats pressed through the throng, hosting live bands or miniature dance parties. One man dressed in a glittering purple tuxedo officiated several simultaneous weddings atop a giant cloud that spewed bubbles. Another carried a team of carnival dancers who samba-ed around a massive open birdcage.
Other costumes included dyed feathers, gimp suits, satirical clergy outfits, elaborate drag, or nothing but body pain and snare drums. Some other special interest groups included a Nicaraguan relief group, the United Women of the World, and a protest against police brutality.
I found some high ground to avoid the crush and watched several puppets representing hatred and bigotry get chased down Paseo Colon by nude drummers. The crowd chanted and cheered. I had never seen so many bright colors, even after spending two weeks in a botanical garden.
Then it started raining. A true, full-blown tropical downpour that began as a rising hiss of heavy drops on rooftops mere seconds before it was on us. Most everyone dashed for cover in a mass of damp banners and soggy feathers. But the party was far from over. I ended up crammed into the end of a table in a teriyaki joint packed to the gills with protesters still dancing to house music blaring from phones. Body paint, wet from the rain, was now smeared over everyone in the most multicolored obvious metaphor I have even seen. I sat there in my one and only ensemble of drab earth tones of green and brown field clothes. Someone handed me a rainbow flag. The music pounded along with the rain. I ordered tempura. It was delicious.