Now the Mini-Menace is back, 5th grade is underway, and today, we got to experience one of the biggest events in the country: the feast of Santo Domingo de Guzman. The celebrations started on August 1st, while we were still in the US, but we managed to make it back in time for the closing celebration on the 10th. One of my co-workers invited us to watch the parade from a cousin's house that is right on the parade route. We'd be behind the fence, not crushed by the crowd, and we could sit, eat, dance, and generally get our party on, Nica-style.
The parade--in which a roughly 6 inch statue of the saint is taken from one side of Managua back to his home church on our side of town--is akin to Mardi Gras, complete with bands, dancers, panhandlers, drag queens, and the like. People set up tables and chairs in their yards, and wait for the saint to pass by. There are people who walk the procession in gratitude or in supplication to the saint, asking for his intercession on their behalf, or giving thanks for prayers answered. Many people carry or wear their own altars and make their own walk ahead of the "official" saint's procession.
Other people coat themselves in used motor oil to darken their skin; there are different theories as to what they represent: diablitos, or little devils; the descendants of African slaves; or the indigenous Nicaraguans that populated the area when the saint was first found, who made a living by making charcoal (or something like that), hence the dark skin.
There were also quite a few people dressed as Indians; they walked the route, usually following a band. Houses along the route would pay the band and dancers--money or food--to perform for a little bit at their house. Our hosts did just that, so we were able to enjoy some great Nica music and dancing.
We watched the crowd, all dancing, drinking, partying and carrying on. These pictures really don't accurately capture the size of the crowd. Suffice it to say that I was very glad to be behind a fence, with a little more room to breathe.
Finally, Santo Domingo made his appearance, surrounded by flowers and carried on a massive wooden platform carried by what seemed like a sea of celebrants:
Our hosts also put on a traditional Nica spread, called caballo bayo. It's like a buffet of traditional Nica meats, cheeses, salads, sauces, beans, and desserts. It was insanely delicious.
Now, I'm going to be in a food-induced coma on the couch for the rest of the day. Good times!!!!