Sydney Perlotto
April 30, 2014

San Jose is in the center of Costa Rica, and it is also a center of culture and art. During my time in the city, I have had the opportunity to go to numerous festivals, parades, and museums. So far, I have visited the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, the Children’s Museum, the National Theater, and the National Museum of Costa Rica. However, I was recently able to visit two festivals that don’t happen that often. One was the International Arts Festival (FIA) and the other was the Festival of Masks in Barva.

The International Arts Festival was an amazing insight into the art of Costa Rica as well as the rest of Latin America. My friends and I arrived to a huge crowd of people packed so tight that it was difficult to see where we were going or even move. Along the sides of various paths were booths with handicrafts and art from around the region, each one labeled with the country’s name. Huge strands of lights hung from the trees while giant colorful cube structures broke up the free space of grassy fields. On stages around the park various artists performed. We spent the entire afternoon wandering between the booths and listening to music.

The Festival of Marks in Barva was equally entertaining and exciting. The town of Barva outside of San Jose is known for the famous masks that it produces, and there are different masks on each corner letting you know that you have arrived. For the festival in the central park, there was a huge amphitheater set up in which a full band played upbeat dancing music. Booths selling food, crafts, and the famous masks were scattered throughout the park, but in the center was an open area where those wearing the masks could dance. The masks are designed so that they rest above the wearer’s head while an opening in the center of the “outfit” allows the wearer to see and dance. As for the masks themselves, they range from extremely scary ghouls and monsters to popular figures, such as ScoobyDoo or local politicians.

My experience with culture and art in San Jose has been wonderful so far. My next destination is the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design for its 20th anniversary!

Hasta luego,


I enjoyed watching the masked dancers. There were a ton of people listening to music on the lawn. Some of the masks were huge while others were tiny. My friends posing in front of the colorful cube art. The lights hanging from the trees were beautiful. I will have to go back to visit this museum at the Sabana. We stayed at the festival until the sun set. Welcome to the International Arts Festival!

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Sydney Perlotto

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Hello! My name is Sydney Perlotto, and I am a junior at the University of Maryland, College Park majoring in Global Social Change and Development and minoring in Latin American Studies and International Development and Conflict Management. I am originally from Atlanta, GA but came to UMD because of its proximity to DC (and snow!). You can often find me volunteering around campus, baking tasty treats, or just generally frolicking! After traveling to Chile for a short term study abroad my sophomore year, I have definitely caught the travel bug and hope one day backpack throughout Latin America. Costa Rica is bound to be an adventure of language, culture, and biodiversity - and I have my waterproof hiking boots at the ready!</span></p>

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