The Grand Gala Parade of Limón is the newest addition to the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Costa Rica. The declaration is given to promote the event as of public interest and to urge governmental institutions to support the organization of the event. 

What is the Grand Gala Parade? 

Every August 31, as part of the celebrations of the Day of the Black Person and Afro-Costa Rican Culture, you can enjoy the Grand Parade in the province of Limón. The Grand Parade is a colorful large-scale street parade full of music, dance, floats and traditional costumes from different eras and various African tribes. It is a five-hour event in which people share the history and development of Afro-Costa Rican culture and what it represents for their identity, as the festival’s slogan says: “Back to our roots”. It is a great festival in Limón that saw its origins within the rescue efforts of the Afro-Costa Rican culture that began in the early 80’s, formalized through the creation of the Black Ethnic Cultural Civic Committee in 1999. 

This parade, with participants and observers of all ages, runs along the main street of downtown Limón traditionally until reaching the emblematic ‘Black Star Line’ building. The ‘Black Star Line’ stood out for its beautiful and particular architecture, characteristic of the colonial Caribbean, and for its striking green color. The original building was built in 1922 and hosted the headquarters of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), becoming a symbol of the struggle for equality. Unfortunately, 75% of the original building was consumed by fire in 2016 and reconstruction efforts, still unfinished, have had a number of problems and delays. 

Normally, the Parade marks the end of the Black Culture Festival and Afrodescendant Month, during which any local or visitor is provided access to traditional Limonian food at every turn. Calypso groups also take the stage with unique Afro-Caribbean rhythms. 

Why August 31st?

That specific day commemorates the Day of the Black Person and Afrodescendant Culture within the celebrations of the Month of the Afrodescendant, but it is not due to a random choice. On August 31, 1920, the First International Convention on the Status of Negroes, which resulted in “The Declaration on the Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World,” concluded at the Madison Square Garden in New York. This declaration was led by the UNIA itself and Marcus Garvey, who would later become of great importance to the people of Limón along with the Black Star Line. 

In Costa Rica, the Black Man’s Day was established by decree in 1980, thanks to the initiative of the Educators Union, to guarantee the rescue of the culture of the black population of Costa Rica through pedagogical mechanisms. The name itself has undergone two changes since then: first expanding the concept of the celebration to “Day of the Black Man and Afro-Costa Rican Culture” and then transforming it to a more inclusive language with the result of “Day of the Black Person and Afro-Costa Rican Culture”.

Singning event of the cultural heritage declaration at Presidential House, March 31, 2022. Retrieved from 

Process of Declaration as Cultural Heritage

The initiative for the declaration of the Grand Parade as Cultural Heritage was led by David Gourzong, assembly member for the province of Limón of the National Liberation Party. In addition to promoting the vision of a truly multiethnic and multicultural Costa Rica, mention was made to the touristic contribution to the area that could be generated by a declaration of this kind. The effort is also framed within the discussions for the declaration of the Day of the Black Person and Afro-Costa Rican Culture as a national holiday, approved by legislators last September 2021. 

From the declaration, the Ministry of Culture and Youth and the Costa Rican Tourism Institute will now join the Municipality of the Central Canton of Limon for the dissemination of information and access to this activity. 

The Long-awaited Return

A tradition of more than 20 consecutive years saw its cancellation like many other events in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which represented a cultural and economic loss for Limón. However, 2021 saw a comeback of sorts by way of a virtual special, with music and guests although it was nowhere near the grandeur of the original Parade. 

If there are no major setbacks, 2022 should see the return of the Grand Gala Parade in all its splendor. Perhaps even more so with the support of the public sector that has opened up to them as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Costa Rica. All that remains is to wait until August 31 to visit Limón and enjoy this spectacle of colors.

In Summary

-The Grand Gala Parade of Limón was declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Costa Rica.

The Grand Gala Parade is a large-scale parade with music, dances and traditional costumes of the Afro-Costa Rican culture.

It is held on August 31 due to the importance of this date for the rights of black people, the same reason why that day the Day of the Black Person and Afro-Costa Rican Culture is celebrated.

The declaration of Heritage is given to bring greater support to the event and foster a rescue of the Afro-Caribbean culture of Costa Rica.



Angie Loveday

for Sensorial Sunsets