Named in honor of Walter “Gavitt” Ferguson - often dubbed the “King of Calypso” - the Second Annual International Calyspo Festival is being held in Cahuita, Costa Rica, this July 4th through the 6th.
Ferguson is considered the memory keeper of Cahuita, and the history of the community can be found in his calypsos. From life on the cacao farm and the banana plantations after the United Fruit Company’s arrival to the building of the railroad and the creation of the National Park, his songs tell the story of life in the olden days of Cahuita, revealing how the livelihood of the community evolved from agriculture to tourism.
A documentary has been made about Ferguson’s life, and a CD recorded in an improvised home studio includes 12 of his original calypsos, including “Cabin in the Wata,” one of the most popular.
Calypso has roots in Trinidad — Photo courtesy of Josef Willems
While the 95-year-old Ferguson no longer performs in front of a crowd, a younger generation of Calypsonians are headlining this year’s Calypso festival. In addition to favorites Calypso Caliente and Johnny Dixon, the adorable and talented Los Rumberitos of Puerto Viejo will be performing live. Los Rumberitos is a band of students from the neighboring town of Puerto Viejo, formed in 2011, whose songs reflect a mix of Costa Rican calypso and Cuban rumba.
The International Festival of Calypso is organized by the Caribbean Cultural Corridor Program (CCC) of the Ministry of Culture and Youth (MCJ), in conjunction with the Cultural Committee of Cahuita, the Development Association of Cahuita (ADIC) and in collaboration with the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT), the Municipality of Talamanca, the Local Council of Shared Management Cahuita National Park and shops in the area.
The Limon province, within which Cahuita is located, is the most diverse region of Costa Rica. Home to the largest indigenous populations, Afro-Caribbeans and a growing number of foreign ex-patriates from around the world, the Caribbean community is separated from the rest of the country by the Talamanca Cordillera Mountain range. Electricity didn’t reach Cahuita until 1976.
Cahuita is four hours by bus or car from the capital city of San Jose, through a winding mountain (with breathtaking views_ that levels out onto the coast. Cahuita is 13 kilometers north of Puerto Viejo de Limon; public buses and taxis run regularly between the two coastal communities during the day.
Once you arrive in Cahuita, you’ll find the Walter “Gavitt” Ferguson Calypso Festival has taken over most of the town, but the headquarters will be at the centrally located Parque Alfredo Gonzales Flores.