Costa Rica, Ruminations

Of bailes and bingo, beers and bartending


Last weekend, San Luis banded together for a weekend-long fiesta to benefit a community member who had suffered from an accident. From this event, I learned the beauty of a tight-knit community.

I also learned the scientific formula for a proper Costa Rican fundraiser. It is:

(cerveza + fútbol + cerveza + bingo + cerveza + baile + cerveza) x rum² = IMMEASURABLE SUCCESS

On Friday, the Accountant asked if I would like to bartend for the weekend’s festivities. I’ve always had a closet desire to bartend; always been wary of the judgement that would come from my parents; and always feared that I lack the grit to command respect from rabble-rousers. But it seemed like a smashing way to spend the day, so I conceded.

To which the Accountant said: “You’re the second female bartender in San Luis history.”

Most excelente.

So with this girl ensuring a steady stream of cervezas, let’s move on to element #2. The afternoon’s soccer match, set to a smattering of rain, pitted two family clans, the Matas and the Lobos, against one another. (Side note: you know you’ve achieved reproductive success when your surname can single-handedly populate a soccer team.) (Second side note: Lobo = wolf, Mata = seedling. Anyone find the match-up disproportionate? Don’t, because the Seedlings won.)


With the fin of futbol, all eyes turned to the auditorium for a riveting game of…bingo.

Yes, bingo.

The fervor with which people flock to a game of bingo is astonishing. Of all the festivities that day and the next, the crowd peeked at bingo hour. You might think, with all the hullabloo surrounding it, that the bingos churn out cars and sofas and flat-screened TVs, or maybe even, like, a super moist chocolate cake.

No. More often than not, it is Tupperware.

But in the case that you are not hooked on the bingo craze (impossible!), never fear: you can partake in a lazy game of chance and buy a raffle ticket. Saturday’s raffle was for a gigantic coil of pork bursting with potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and assorted vegetables, along with a liter of rum. (Little wonder why this was an enticing prize to the long-haired American bros in attendance.)

For an hour, the air was so tense you could cut it with a machete. Afterwards, faces soaked from concentration, much of the crowd dispersed home to change and freshen up for an evening that could only result in more sweat.

Sweat transitions us nicely into the baile (dance). At this point, still behind the bar, my face ached from smiling. But any rest I consciously tried to give it was quickly foiled by the fact that I was consciously trying to give it rest.

In any case, dances are a beautiful bucket of awkward. I had forgotten how much so, until I looked out from the bar and saw the bobbing pairs of heads and the movement of trampled feet to uncoordinated beats. And my oh my, how miserable people can look when they’re dancing. For an activity that’s supposed to be enjoyable, for an activity that looks bouncy and joyous if you are skimming the pulse of a crowd, people can wear the most tortured expressions on their faces.

These observations were enough to scare this gritty bartender back to her refuge of Imperial, Imperial, Imperial, a decision cemented by the interruption of a 45-minute professional karaoke session. It was a completely unwarranted intrusion, bathing the crowd in a wave of melancholy that did nothing to abate the heat.

The music finally picked back up and I left my roost for the dance floor, circling back to the bar only to escape the occasional vulture. It wasn’t long before the people filtered out, and us bar folk were left to tally the casualties.

With twelve hours behind the bar, I am happy to report the only damage was to my cheeks.

(Stragglers for the win.)

1 thought on “Of bailes and bingo, beers and bartending”

  1. Mollylita, Hope they tipped their adorable bartender handsomely! Btw, think I’ve told you this b4, but YOU have a real gift for writing, hija👍! Mucho Amor❤️, Madre

    Sent from my iPhone


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s