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Taking a well earned rest

But, of course, this is Nicaragua we’re talking about, celebrator of the virgin, and she certainly hadn’t yet been sufficiently celebrated. So we all had a public holiday on Wednesday the 15th, and then on Saturday night there was a whole lot of excited firecrackers going off all over the show from the various churches continuously for over an hour.

Apparently each of the churches set of firecrackers and respond to the other church’s firecrackers in a good natured estimation of firing weapons upon each other. Apparently. Anyway, Sunday dawned with a marching band (actually, the marching band beat the dawn by about an hour, but they were playing so nicely that we didn’t mind) and some more firecrackers, and an air of general excitement. Dave went down to the parque to take some photos and came back with the report that it looked like this was going to be big. There weren’t bulls this time, but a parade of horsemen and various other elements like masked characters, and beauty queens in convertibles, and other exciting attractions. There was no rain, and it was bloody hot out so we decided to wait till three-ish and head down to see what all the fuss was about.

Bubble blowing toys!

The first thing we noticed was the noise. Not content with one set of giant speakers every so often, on the corner of the Merced church and the street running down to the parque on which the parade was to be held were three individual sets of marquees, all with their own set of speakers, playing substantially different music all so loud it would put any nightclub to shame. Each of these covered and raised platforms held rows of chairs looking out at the street, and obviously deafened people dressed in their best, wearing cowboy hats and excitedly watching the action, which consisted of a steady collection of people on horseback and a stream of regular people, like us, who realised that the quickest way to get anywhere was walk on the road instead of the packed footpaths. The best bit about the three corners and marquees was that right behind one of the tents with its huge speakers was a band of guys playing traditional music on marimbas and drums, which was completely impossible to hear unless to pressed your head onto the marimba. And yet, they were persisting, and having a fine old time. We headed down towards the parque, cameras at the ready.

Our local friendly marching band (not marching obviously), who had a group of dedicated dancers to the left.

About half way to the parque in the street lined with people we came to a patch where the speakers were only hitting a little bit and the main attractions were a knot of people dancing like their lives depended on it in the street in their denim and cowboy hats to the music of our local marching band, who were loving the attention and dancers. The band saw our cameras and started posing for us, which was good of them. Hey, it’s probably the only opportunity we’ll have to photograph them, as the only other time we know they’re active is at four thirty in the morning and who has a camera handy then? Having got as many pictures as one can take of a marching band, we headed further down towards the parque.

Federales... with the difficult task of stopping the drunk people from being trampled by the drunk men riding drunk horses.

On the corner, bordering where we had stood previous weekend, there were three marquees, and lining the street were more of them. We realised that basically, you paid admission into the stands, which were mainly sponsored by Toña, the more popular of the local beers. All the people in the stands had those green wristlets that you get at events to show you’ve paid, and obviously the stands were for the wealthy people. But it was more fun down on the ground, really, and lots of people had just brought their families and some plastic chairs and bits of string and roped off areas for themselves. We dove into the parque; as the parade wove down two sides of it and then down the street next to the cathedral towards the lake. The path the parade was following was lined with marquees, including two HUGE Toña stands which had their own bootscooting attractions and my personal favourite, a trio of bored looking, heavily made up girls wearing sequined bras and Abba style flared tights wriggling their hips to various Latino numbers while being gawked at by onlookers. Ah, to be in the stands!

Mmmm. Fried... something?

The parque was practically unrecognisable, it was such a bustle of activity. It felt as though it had doubled in size, there was so much to see. And in with all the stands containing the usual suspects (food, drinks, tourist paraphernalia, jewelery, toys, etc.) there were also more electronics stands, and even a stand selling new bikes, which were being displayed, shiny and fully assembled, hanging from the thin wooden tent in what looked like defiance of gravity. There were also the completely fascinating and confusing gambling games, which involved a lot of spinning and shouting and people crowding round and leaning in eagerly and lots of action. Very cool. There were also guys with polaroid cameras and little replica horses and little cowboy hats, offering to take pictures of babies on horseback for mementos. I saw one of the camera men very seriously and gently smoothing down the mane of his toy horse, so it looked its best. They didn’t seem to be doing a rip roaring trade, but I guess they would have had some takers.

A friendly gambling game.

We decided to follow the road the parade took for fun, because it seemed more interesting that standing in one spot and gawking at the horses, which becomes dull pretty quick. And we wanted to take in the sights! So we battled our way through the ever thickening crowd down past the bored girls in bras. The crowd was thinner in the street next to the cathedral, and every cafe on the street had its tables out and was taking advantage. One of the stores had put a six foot tall cyclone-fence up around their café, and a security guard was standing feircly on the outside... it was somewhat reminiscent of a prison yard that allowed rum. We followed the road around a corner, where the horsemen were going. The horses were getting more irritable and the horsemen were getting drunker, so we made sure to keep out from the backs of them. When the trail petered off we decided to head back to the parque and hop back on the main drag where the parade was and retrace our steps back home while checking out the action. We went back to the parque via the back streets, which, while they didn’t contain any horses, had musicians, and families out the front of houses hoping for a look at the action. The whole town was alive.

Flor de Caña, anyone?

Getting through the park wasn’t much trouble, while there were heaps of people there was enough space to squeeze through in the general direction of the street with the parade. However, getting onto the main street proved to be a huge problem. There were so many people and stands and roped off areas and police shepherding people randomly and people ignoring them that eventually we found a slither of space between two marquees and elbowed our way through the crowd into the middle of the street. Which wasn’t much better, space wise. The horses were thick on the ground now, and people were everywhere and generally making their way in the opposite direction to us, so we were swimming upstream through the melee. There were also lines of special cops who were dressed in black, wearing plastic armour and carrying really big guns, forming human barricades trying to prevent people from tumbling off the sidewalks (due drunkeness and overcrowding) and under the hooves of horses. We pushed our way back up past our band, avoiding the horse’s rear ends. When we got closer to our street we realised the parade was starting in earnest. There were girls in convertibles, masked men, and a Nicaraguan Carmen Miranda. There were heaps of horses, and families in horse carts which had temporary palm-leaf roofs on them. We stood and watched for a while, and then slowly made our way back home. The horsemen were just fabulous. The quintessential horsemen shown on TV here are the ones in the Toña ads; dazzling young men in hats, bandanas, and holding a can of Toña in one hand, drinking from it casually. All these men had certainly taken this to heart. I saw one old man in his hat and his best clothes take a swig of beer before happily pouring the rest all over his horse’s mane, and then smoothing it down like the latest hair product for horses. The horse wasn’t overly impressed, but the crowd liked it.

So THAT’S how the Federales know how to swing an AK with such casualness!... they practice from a young age.

Our street was crammed with cars, all from out of town. Throughout the afternoon there were people, the occasional horse, and a couple of ambulances past our house. And the steady thud of several different beats from the tents. This didn’t go on very late and by the next morning, no trace remained of the parade except possibly more horse manure fertilizing the roads than usual was visible.

Some traditional Nicaraguan masks and their owners getting ready to put on a show.

And that is the story of Hípico.

Gino’s staff - how much does this man look like Mahmut??

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Holy shit. I don't know what is more disturbing; how MUCH that man looks like Mahmut or the idea of Mahmut in a cowboy suit... There'll be no easy sleep for this weary head tonight, that's for sure.

Oh my Lord, there most definately a double for everybody out there, we seem to have found Mahmut's.haha nice work.