Sunday, June 03, 2012

cowboy culture

* update * i've tried several times to upload the videos, but they don't seem to be working. :(

cowboys and black jesus
in case you thought that cowboy culture is just a southern thing in the US, let me tell you right now, you are wrong.  my history of us-latin american relations professor actually wrote a whole book about cowboy culture and was big on the latin american part of it all.  if you think about it, cattle don't really care about imaginary lines that we draw on pieces of paper to mark "borders" between two countries.  so it stands to reason that there are cowboys elsewhere.  i got to experience this first-hand in nicaragua for the past two weekends.

there are several different versions of the legend, but the general consensus is that jesus with black skin showed up to one woman or several near volcán masaya about 300 years ago during the time of spanish colonialism. the town now celebrates during the fiestas patronales with a ten day long festival that starts with the hipica and then ends with a crucifix with black jesus being carried through the streets of the city. you can find the different versions of the legend here.

cowboys and dancing horses

chilling at the hipica
yes, dancing horses. we celebrated the hipica here in masatepe on may 27.  according to the locals, we have the best hipica in the country and the crowds proved it.  the event was packed with people from all over the country.   i could compare it to a fair of sorts.  there were even rides for kids (including bumper cars!).  the main attraction are the horses that come in and ride through town; however, these aren't just any horses. these can dance!

the dancing horses trotted through the streets of masatepe while crowds of people milled about drinking toña (the local beer) and flor de caña (the national rum). several of the current PCTs (peace corps trainees) all met up to enjoy the festivities.

henry's family had a party at their house with several families.  they invited us along, and we gladly accepted (obviously). several volunteers danced, and we all enjoyed some beverages while chatting with each other and the other party guests (depending on our level of spanish).  later, we all went out to see the horses again and the massive crowds of people in the streets of the city.  several people went to a big party at the local casa de cultura. by that point i had spent most of the money i was willing to part with, so i headed home.

cowboys and bulls
we had no idea what "exciting" was going to mean
saturday, june 2, the festivities returned to masatepe for the annual tope de toros. the way people described the event to us, we were envisioning a running of the bulls or something like that through the streets of masatepe.  it was a very hyped event by most every one we met.

wait, the bull is coming up the stairs!?!?!?
we all heard different times about when it was supposed to start, so we averaged that and shot for 2pm to meet up just to make sure we were there in time to see it.  we then proceeded to stand around and wait for about an hour and a half before they actually started.  the actual event was quite different than what any of us expected.  the bull was tied to a cowboy on horseback and then several men were pulling it along.  then they stopped in the middle of the square and taunted the bull. turns out the stairs of the church we were standing on was a place they always tried to get the bull to run up, which caught all of us by surprise.  we later understood what one of the host siblings meant by "more exciting."  i was ready to jump off of the steps while at the same time still take pictures of what was happening.  it was quite the adventure for sure.

i don't think his day ended well.
later there were fireworks in the main square, and kids ran around as mock "bulls" with fireworks shooting out of them.

fireworks in the main square

black jesus
sunday morning marked trinity sunday and the celebration of black jesus.  i went to mass to view the festivities and the place was packed.  i got there at 915 with my host sister and the church was already full. the service didn't even get under way until about 1015. crazy stuff.  the bishop was even there! it was like a huge fan fest when he walked in. people started cheering and clapping. someone was shouting "viva el obispo! viva el papa! viva jesus christo!" etc. it was super hot and crowded though, so i ducked out before the end of the service.

packed already
the key part of the service is when they carry the crucifix throughout the town... all day.  it is basically a vigil and people sign up to carry the thing through out the day as they go up and down the streets of the town. he wasn't moving very fast though. i walked home around 6 and then saw him again about half a block down at 8. it was quite the operation. a guy was on a bike taxi with a generator strapped to it riding behind the crucifix so the lights could be on so everyone could see.  according to my family they go until around midnight. 12 hours is pretty intense if you ask me.

the start of the procession around town
those are the happenings
so that's the main stuff that's been happening around here lately. it's a cultural experience every day. the one thing i can count on every day is rice and beans. :)

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