Brandishing an inflatable hammer and a plastic father Christmas, he makes his way through the crowd, then continues higher up on the terraces where people are seated closely together, in anticipation. He reappears, balancing deftly on a few empty seats, stepping over children and their mothers, carrying an awkward board as tall as himself, with sunglasses attached on it. This man in his "Visit Costa Rica" T-shirt keeps turning up, all evening, with new merchandise: paper tongues that roll out when shaking them, red Santa hats with blinking miniature Santas as long as the batteries lasts. Finally, when it is completely dark, you can see fluorescent bangles. Little girls are elbowing their mothers, fathers are producing wallets. You'll see plastic bags with pink cottonwool and the candy-floss man hawking his wares.
I am a spectator and do not know what I have come to see.
I had climbed the rickety stairs, ticket in hand, and found myself in an arena. Seats on two sides, "wall bars" at the far end. On a crowded platform, officials making announcement about local shops, restaurants, and sponsors. Outside the arena, an ambulance is always ready to come into action. There are two horses mounted by lassoed cowboys. Finally, from the rapidly spoken Spanish, one word stands out: torros (bulls).
Kissing the soil and crossing himself.
Men are presented to the public, they kiss the soil, cross themselves and draw lots. Names are announced. More announcements, more introduction.
Shouting, clapping, whistling. The first bull enters the ring, jumping, wriggling and throws off his rider in less than a minute. A whole bunch of young daredevils jump into the ring, teasing the bull. Some bulls get worked up and are running around the ring, sending everyone diving over the fence. The officials allow these young Romeos to impress their Juliets before they send out the cowboys with their lasso to catch the bull and then it starts all over again.
In between, the public is entertained, young boys are interviewed, there are singing and dancing contests. The last rider is thrown off in a nasty way, picked up by four men and shoved through a trap window in the fencing on to the waiting ambulance.
A loud applause ensues and then we see a bull rider in a wheelchair, disabled four years ago. Money is donated. The show has come to an end. A last announcement -- the injured rider need not go to hospital . . . relief.