This last Sunday was quite possibly one of the most spectacularly fun days I've had yet in Nicaragua. Alta (Dutch roommate) and I went off to Masaya, a small town about 30 km from Managua so that she could look for a new place to live and so I could do some shopping at the famous Masaya artisan markets. We had no idea when we planned the trip, but it turns out that last Sunday was Masaya's fiestas patronales (patron saint day festival), and oh my good lord, it was fantastic. Telling you the story is actually a little frustrating, because all I have to go on are photos and words, but photos and words could never capture the sheer noise, energy, noise, excitement, noise, noise, noise of this fiesta. On every street corner, in every park, from the bed of every truck that passed by, music blared. Hip-hop, reggaeton, salsa, bad 80's pop songs, revolutionary folk music. And on the streets, marimba bands, mariachi bands, brass bands, lone minstrels, break dancers with their boomboxes, and traditional folkloric dance musicians all played simultaneously, competing for attention, space, and sound. It was spectacular.
The whole town was given over to an equestrian parade that was supposed to start at 2, which, if you've spent any time at all in Nicaragua, you will know that the parade was actually going to start at 4. So Alta and I had most of the afternoon to toodle around, so toodle we did. We shopped, had lunch, and finally settled down at a sidewalk cafe on the parade route and commenced drinking beer. This was fantastic. You can order beer by the liter in Latin America, and it doesn't come in a paper bag with MadDog on the label.
A marimba band settled down right next to where we were sitting, and it suddenly was the greatest place on earth, sitting in plastic chairs at a plastic table on a sidewalk in a small town in Nicaragua with a bunch of other people, all of us roasting in the sun, drinking warm beer, and waiting for a parade to start. So naturally, we danced. (This guy got a little fresh!)
After an hour or two, the gigantonas (giantesses) started making their way around, dancing through the streets to make people laugh and get them excited for the coming parade. I didn't get any good action sequences, but basically the guys stand inside the giant doll frames and dance around while the drummers bang away and the little kid/dwarf runs around collecting tips and telling ribald jokes.
Finally, drunk, sweaty, thrilled to our toes, we spotted the first horses coming down the way, and oh, my goodness they were so pretty.
Some of the cowboys weren't too bad lookin', either!
And oh, you should have seen some of the costumes on the fancier riders. Like check out this fine lady of the aristocracy. Keep in mind it's probably 500 million degrees outside, and she's wearing a leather hat, leather boots, and a wool blanket. But look at her smile!
After the finer specimens of equine excellence had passed by, then came the beer-drinking, cigar-smoking cowboys,
the campesinos (as these guys rode by I wanted to shout out to them, "We don't need no stinking badges!")
and the... wait a second. Is that Steve Martin as Inspector Clouseau... in disguise as a Nicaraguan cowboy? I think yes.
Then came the little kids, (OH MY GOD THESE BOYS ARE SO CUTE)
And more little kids on bulls. I guess they ran out of horses?
But of all the things I saw, and believe me, I saw some wonderful things, I think this is my favorite. Does this lady have a horse? No, she does not. But does she want to party? Yes she does. And so off she went, balancing a liter of beer on her head, dancing down the street like the whole damn parade was her own personal private party. Cheers, dancing beer lady. I love you so much.
So that was my day in Masaya. Alta and I had so much fun, nearly got trampled to death by temperamental horses spooked by huge wild crowds and loud music as we scrambled around trying to get the best pictures ever in the history of the world, and partied like true Nicaraguans. I love fiestas patronales.