September 29th, 2009

Arroz Con Leche

Rice pudding, or arroz con leche, is one of Costa Rica’s most popular desserts. Often made with the zest of an orange or a lemon, Costa Rican arroz con leche is always very sweet and very creamy. Historically, rice and sugar have been important cash crops in Costa Rica, and these two ingredients naturally found their way into one recipe.

Costa Ricans have a special fondness for arroz con leche, because most ate it as children. Arroz con leche reminds Costa Ricans of naptime, cozy evenings and grandmothers. In fact, arroz con leche is such a childhood favorite that every Costa Rican knows the words to a popular nursery rhyme about the dessert. Although the lyrics sometimes change slightly, the words are basically as follows:

Arroz con leche.
Me quiero casar
con una señorita
de la capital.

Que sepa coser
que sepa bordar
que sepa abrir la puerta
para ir a jugar.

Loosely translated into English, the words are:

Rice pudding.
I would like to get married
to a young lady
from the capital.

Who knows how to sew
who knows how to embroider
who knows how to open the door
to go outside to play.

The Magnolia Restaurant serves a particularly spectacular arroz con leche, which quickly runs out, no matter how much the kitchen makes. Be sure you’re at the head of the line the next time arroz con leche appears on the Magnolia’s buffet menu!

Listen to Arroz con Leche, the nursery rhyme. (In this version, the singer wants to marry someone from San Nicolás–”de San Nicolás–instead of from the capital.)

Writing and editing by Beaumont Hardy Editing.

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September 14th, 2009

Quince de Septiembre

September 15 is Costa Rican independence day, and the entire country will join in the celebrations. Costa Rica received its independence from Spain on September 15, 1821. Before becoming independent, Costa Rica was a Spanish colony, and Guatemala served as a regional government center. In September of 1821, Guatemala declared its independence from Spain, simultaneously declaring Costa Rica’s independence as well. The newly independent Guatemalans gathered together to give a cry of freedom on the evening of September 14, 1821.

Because the Guatemalans carried torches, or faroles, during their evening celebration, torch-carrying has become an integral part of independence day celebrations in Costa Rica. At 6:00 on the night of September 14, torch-lit parades make their way across many Costa Rican towns and in San José. Traditionally, the Costa Rican national anthem plays during the parade of the faroles, and several radio stations often broadcast the anthem simultaneously at 6:00.

Schoolchildren have long played an important role in Costa Rica’s independence day celebrations. The country prides itself on its educational system, and Costa Rican patriots have long argued that the country’s future freedom rests on the shoulders of its schoolchildren. Many of the participants in the farol parades are schoolchildren who have made and decorated their own torches. On September 15 itself, Costa Rican schoolchildren parade through the streets, waving flags and singing patriotic songs. Costa Ricans celebrate the fact that schoolchildren–and not members of the military–head their patriotic celebrations.

Interestingly, Costa Rica did not learn of its independence until October of 1821, as it took a month for the information to reach Costa Rica from Guatemala.

Learn more about faroles.

Writing and editing by Beaumont Hardy Editing.

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