Costa Rican “Bombas”

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    Last Wednesday, July 25th, Guanacaste, and the rest of the country, officially celebrated the 188th anniversary of the Annexation of el Partido de Nicoya (today known as Guanacaste) to Costa Rica.

    This is the most important cultural holiday in Guanacaste, and some of the major towns of the province such as Liberia, Santa Cruz, and Nicoya proudly celebrate Annexation Day with a wide variety of cultural activities such festivals, topes de payasos, folk dances, bull riding, parades, and others.

    Annexation Day is a time for Guanacastecos to show how proud they are of their culture as well as to honor the traditions passed down from their ancestors.

    One of these popular traditions is reciting “bombas,” oral expressions, mostly quartets, that deal with aspects of the daily life of Guanacastecos.

    The term shows an analogy with the “bombetas” of gunpowder that were fired during the celebration of “fiestas” or “turnos.” Just as the bombetas’ strong impact would silence the voices of the people at these turnos, screaming the word “bomba” during folk dances would silence the music to signal someone was ready to recite a quartet.

    Bombas indeed were quite popular during fiestas and turnos. People would say bombas to express their happiness, share a personal experience, and even to flirt with someone they found attractive. In fact, in the past, sabaneros (country men) would commonly say a bomba to a woman they liked (almost as a pick up line, we can say) to try to get her attention. If the woman liked her suitor, she would reply with a positive response, also in the form of a quartet. If, on the contrary, she did not like the man, the woman would say a bomba to show her rejection.

    Although bombas are no longer use in social context due to the process of acculturation Guanacaste has suffered over the years, most Guanacastecos have kept this tradition, and they will definitely continue to pass it down to future generations.

    Types of Bombas

    Bombas have slightly changed over the years. While the most popular bombas have been preserved and passed down from generation to generation, today bombas can be about pretty much anything (as long as the words rhyme), and they can be recited at any time or place, usually just to express something witty or funny.
    For example, some common modern bombas in Costa Rica begin with the expression “ayer pasé por tu casa…” Then the person saying the bomba can finish it with any rhyming words that come to his or her mind at the moment.

    In general, we can identify the following types of bombas:
    – Humoristic
    – Romantic
    – Sassy
    – Naughty
    – Derogatory
    – Defiant

    Bombas are an important element of Costa Rica’s folklore, and they will always be part of the cultural identity of ticos and ticas.

    Here is an example of a bomba exchange between a man and a woman.

    Quisiera ser sabanero
    Pero no de la sabana
    Quisiera ser sabanero
    De la orilla de tu casa

    Sabanero, sabanero
    Sabanero sin sabana
    A mi no viene a molestarme
    Ningún hijo de su mama

    Un chayote por chiquito
    me lo como y quedo con hambre
    pues déme el suyo señora
    que considero que es más grande

    Quien es ese chayotero
    que solo chayote come
    chayote habrá comido
    pero éste no se lo come

    The Costa Rica News (TCRN)
    San Jose Costa Rica

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