Luna means the moon, in Spanish, and Mar means the sea. A Tope is a horse festival, including a large parade.

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On March 8, 2012, about 300 horses, 40 motorcycles, 30 quads, 50 cars, an ambulance, a brass band, a truck blaring Latin music, and about 1000 people made the annual Luna Llena (Full Moon) trek from Tempate to Potrero, about 12 kms. Or 8 miles. I was one of them!

I have no good photos, because there was no light, except for the full moon herself, and strange, spooky light from thousands of small wildfires that were busily chewing up the mountains close to the sea. The hills were burning. One could see lines of flames traveling up distant mountains, but also small fires along the road, and several phone poles burning from the bottom up, hanging in mid air by their wires.

My friend Tina had spent the day watering the greenery around her house, but the flames were within 20 meters of the dwelling. Did she care? Certainly. She left 2 teenage visitors to guard the house, with several hoses, buckets, and a saddled horse. Their instructions were to get on the horse and gallop to a house in Tempate if her house caught on fire. Meanwhile, she joined the parade, and went dancing and drinking afterwards.

The parade itself: Picture a line of motorcycles, each bearing between one and 5 people, including babies. They zoom by in the darkness. Then quads, with even more people, perhaps 8 to 10 per quad. Then the horse parade starts. As we wait for the trucks with the music, 5 young men jump off their horses, unzip and pee on my friend’s fence. She sighs, they always do that. The horses gallop onwards. The horses are ridden by young and old, men and women and very young children, as young as 5 or 6.

I saw several horses bearing 3 people, father, mother, and baby. Some horses walked, some galloped, and some spun in circles or did elaborate dancing movements called a passage. The ambulance kept its siren on most of the time, so it was difficult to tell if there was an emergency or it was just for fun. People threw firecrackers and fireworks into the mob at random intervals. Our horses seemed indifferent, already in sensory overload from the mob, the noise, the flames, and the other horses.

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Some people were so drunk that they kept falling off their horses and then were loaded back on by helpful friends. We rode down the dirt road from Tempate to Potrero Bay, and then about a mile along the ocean. As we got to the sea, major fireworks erupted, spewing pink and purple cascades of color in the sky near the moon, accompanied by deafening booms.

We ended up at a local restaurant, and were rewarded by cold beer and arroz con mariscoes, rice with seafood. I would guess 1,000 people crowded the restaurant. Many of my friends were there, my veterinarian, her husband, several hotel owners, and then people from the villages of all ages, diapers to diapers. There was no obvious sign of social class. I knew there were very rich people there, but also people so poor they could not afford dinner for $4.00

If there is some kind of Gini coefficient for social class distinctions rather than income distribution, I would say that the party had a perfect 0. I couldn’t tell rich from poor, Ticos from Nicos, North American gringos from Europeans. Anyone over the age of 10 was probably drunk. The noise was again deafening, loud Latin American music, and people swayed and danced, clearly planning to stay until la madrugada, the early morning. I left around 11 PM, with one and a half beers under my belt.

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My question to the august personages of the Psychology Today community: you have traveled more than I have. Many of you have seen a lot of the world and its cultures.

Is this scene I describe typical in some way, for Latin America or 3rd world countries or horse communities? It is entirely new for me. Why are we so divided in North America? Our parties are mostly private and divided by social class distinctions, not to mention age. Maybe it’s just me, that I isolate myself in Redmond, Washington, and don’t get out enough. Still, I’m working on this book about happiness in Costa Rica. Help me. Does the Luna Llena Tope sound unique? Or just typical for some other places that I don’t know?

Moon and Sea Horse Parade. Riding through the wildfires to the Pacific

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Written by Dr. Judith Eve Lipton, M.D. who is a psychiatrist, a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, who retired after 30 years to enjoy her family, her pets, and Costa Rica. Dr. Lipton has been married for 34 years to Dr. David Barash, and they have 4 children and one grandchild, as well as 9 cats, 4 dogs, a horse, and a parrot.

Judith Lipton, M.D. and her husband David Barash, Ph.D., have written numerous books

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