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"Lagarteada"  consists catching a crocodile, taking it to the town square and releasing it on Holy Sunday..
/ Fiestas de Guanacaste courtesy photo

Good Friday "Lagarteada" celebration in Guanacaste

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The "Lagarteada", which means the offering of a lizard to the gods, is a traditional celebration that coincides with Gook Friday in Santa Cruz* in the province of Guanacaste.

The tradition began before the Spanish conquest of Costa Rica when the area was inhabited by indigenous tribes known as Los Chorotegas,  says Project Fiestas in its statement.

The Chorotegas were well-known ceramic manufacturers and were very skilled. They probably came to Costa Rica from Chiapas, Mexico.

After the colonization, the tradition changed and was celebrated on Easter Friday. It consists catching a crocodile, taking it to the town square and releasing it on Holy Sunday.

"The hunters gather and start the journey between paths of the Tempisque River in search of the lizard, but not before armed with sticks, nets and all kinds of tools necessary for the task. With vigor, they throw shovels into the water to corral the animal. The task is very dangerous because the lizard, harassed by the crowd, responds to the threat with its best weapons, a powerful force and sharp and multiple teeth," said a representative of the culture of Guanacaste in its  statement.

The "lagarteros," the ones chosen to find the lizard, travel long distances in search of the dens of the crocodiles.

Once they locate a den that is considered one of the largest in the area, the "lagarteros" proceed to capture it. This task can demand up to more than six hours. If they confirm that the animal is hidden in the lair, they proceed to provoke it to come to the surface.

"In this dangerous task, the
"lagarteros" even risk their lives, introducing part of their bodies in the cave to verify that the animal is in its burrow and try in any way to capture it," they said in its  statement.

When the animal is captured, the town is warned with the sound of car sirens.

The animal is tied and loaded on the shoulders of the
"lagarteros" to be displayed in a corral in the center of town. The crocodile will be kept locked and released  in  Holy Sunday near its burrow.

The choice of Good Friday for the ritual may have been to submerge the act into the Christian celebration. "In this way, Good Friday is accepted as a significant day where the union of the celebration imposed by the Catholic missionaries at the arrival of the conquest and the indigenous celebration of the sacrifice of a sacred animal occurs," the organizers said in its statement.

In the past, the animal was sacrificed and butchered for consumption and medicinal use. Today the animal is returned to the river. The activity is very popular with locals and national tourists.

Last year, the National System of Conservation Areas prohibited this activity deciding that "Lagarteada" itself, "is an act that goes against current national and international regulations, technical criteria, bioethical principles and welfare animal, where hunting, racking and exhibition are prohibited."

Despite the ban, the organizers announced that they will continue with their tradition this Good Friday.


Are you in agreement with the prohibition of the lagarteada? We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to: news@amcostarica.com

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