Here it is, another holiday in my Nicaragua paradise. For Christians, it is Good Friday. For Nicaraguans beginning with Thursday, it is Semana Santa. Nicaragua has many holidays and this is one of their most important. Many communities from the largest to the smallest have special traditions and rituals that are practiced during this special week.
In Las Salinas, one of the towns in Tola municipality near me, the Catholic church there performs a Passion Procession sometime in the week preceding Semana Santa with men and women dressed in biblical costume. One man is given the privilege of carrying a very large cross made of tree trunks for about two kilometers along the dirt road with others filing before and after him. I saw this parade several years ago and can only say that I was in awe of the dedication to this local tradition.
Last week when returning from Managua on one of our very rural back roads, I witnessed another such procession from a tiny village. However, in this procession four men were carrying a small platform with a 15 inch statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe surrounded by flowers. This procession of ten people was going to walk about 5 kilometers to the nearest church. The group seemed to be having a good time and weren’t concerned that it was beginning to get dark and would soon be somewhat dangerous processing along this road.
Another annual tradition associated with Semana Santa and beginning two weeks prior is the procession of carretas from Managua to a special Catholic church in Potósi, a small town in Rivas Department outside of the city of Rivas. The carrettas begin with oxen carts followed by horse drawn carts. Whole families are packed into their cart and camp alongside the road for the two week trip. The route goes through Granada and proceeds along the Pan American Highway from there. Police are hired to monitor the one way traffic that creates at least a 30 to 40 minute delay to normal travel time. Many towns are represented by their decorated and bannered carts. Each town’s cart processes within their specific group. I discovered, after encountering the carretta procession twice in two weeks on trips to Managua, that each cart has more than one family participating to fulfill the journey. One set will spend one week traveling and camping and be relieved by a second group of participants for the second and final week. Each cart not only carries the people and their camping gear but also has to carry feed and water for the animals. Along the Pan American Highway the carrettas are allowed to travel for two hours in mid-morning and two hours in mid-afternoon. Traffic gets backed up for at least a kilometer if not more. Survivors could take lessons from these carretta participants.
This is a fascinating procession although somewhat frustrating to those travelers trying to get to Managua in a hurry. Thank heaven, I didn’t have scheduled appointments for my two trips to Managua. As I have learned, here one learns patience and then more patience. I am including photos of the carrettas from my two trips—the first ones are along the Granada Highway, the second ones are along the Pan Am with the carrettas and animals camped.
Time seems to fly by each day or else I am slowing down daily, although I don’t think the latter is true. I have had renters in the condo numerous occasions since the Christmas holidays. This, of course, means that I am moving in and out of the condo to various friend’s homes. In between and during the temporary lodging sessions, I am still entertaining the many friends who come to their Nicaragua vacation homes during this beautiful dry season. Thankfully, some of the friends where I stay don’t mind me having dinner parties at their homes. Actually I do this to show off their homes which may produce future renters for them.
Over the past three months, I met several new Rancho Santana homeowners and therefore increased my list of potential couriers to bring me my mail and stuff that I order from the US. People inclined to come here, many of them surfers, are willing participants in the quasi-community that we develop as ex-pats to ferry goods back and forth. I also met multiple Rancho Santana guests who have incredible stories to share. A couple of these visitors, the Harveys, have undertaken to sponsor a young classical and jazz violinist to go to the Berklee Conservatory of Music in Boston this July. Marvin Amador, the young man, is an extraordinary musician reminding me of Stefan Grappelli who I saw in concert several times in the US. I have helped the Harveys by introducing them to resources that help their endeavor. When Marvin ever gets a YouTube video online, I’ll post the address in a short blog.
There is much construction activity going on in the Tola area these days. New businesses, large and small, and many new homes are being built by the local folks as well as ex-pats from all over the world. I am delighted to see that my favorite local craft beer makers—Campo Brew—have finally moved from their house into a building in Limón #2 and opened a brew pub. The pub is open from 11 to 7 three days a week. Food can be purchased from a food truck that is parked nearby on the property. Entrepreneurship is evident by lots of gringos who are planning on making this their home.
The Great Wall—the retaining wall and reservoir— at my Guasacate house is almost completed and I believe will be ready to receive rain water when the rains finally start. Sadly, I think I will sell my property and the unfinished house, although I am still daily debating this option. Storm Nate in October taught me that I need to have a community of supporters nearby to be safe. Unfortunately there isn’t much of a permanent community in Guasacate at this time and it may be at least five years before such develops. My condo in Rancho Santana, although it doesn’t have the glorious hilltop views and sound of the ocean and surrounding foothills, it does have a small permanent community. Of more importance, however, there is my Nica family in Limón #2 and the many workers at RS who know me and help me in any way if I need help. One day this past month I found myself talking to an older friend in RS, when I was staying at her house, telling her that she needed to be safe. I then realized that I should also be taking my own advice since I am nearly her age. Living alone in Guasacate is not a good idea. Hence the decision to sell.
With this sad news, I’m ending today’s blog.
Happy Semana Santa to family, friends, and readers near and far.