On Sundays, in October and November, in celebration of Masaya's patron saint, San Jerónimo, dancers take to the streets and to the homes of friends and relatives to perform El Baile de Negras. It's not known for sure just when and from where this dance originated but it's certain that the culture that surrounds today's Baile is vibrant, engaging and a source of Nicaraguan pride.
Most notably, all the performers are men. They show off in elegant costumes and bedazzled footwear representative of countries around the world, and use delicate, hand-painted mesh masks that obscure their own features. Although communication between dance partners is limited due to hidden facial cues, the skillful choreography, and excellent coordination of costumes and accoutrements results in an impeccable presentation. A small ensemble of musicians accompanies the entertainers, showcasing traditional marimba music.
Every year, an animated crowd of locals and visitors alike comes out to follow en mass, rain or shine. The admiration is palpable and the camera phones get a work out.
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The Solentiname archipelago was largely unknown before the mid-1960s, when Father Cardenal, a native of Granada, Nicaragua, arrived on the islands to establish a parish church. He ended up nurturing not just a political consciousness but also a community of artists that is still thriving decades later. The naïve paintings of Solentiname, and their influence, can be found all throughout Nicaragua, as well as galleries around the world.
At Primitivista.com you can purchase custom paintings in the naïve style from various Nicaraguan artists. Their individual creativity showcases a vibrant, living and breathing homeland. I'm a big fan.
The clip-clop of horse hooves and four well-worn wooden wheels hitting the cracked pavement. The shrill, metallic whistle of the night guard announcing his departure. The coos of the resident doves. A car clunkity-clunks by, both it and the road sound as though in rough shape. The fruit lady is in full swing, shouting out her list of goods as if it would be the first time my neighbors and I were made aware of her existence. Not far behind, a hushed conversation ambles by. Barely audible it could be in Spanish, English, Egyptian. A rooster. Need I say more? Various other birds, with functioning wings, join the dialog, gossiping from one side of the street to the other.
It’s dawn. I’m not quite ready to participate. So I roll away from the early morning sun ray that has landed quietly, almost apologetically, on my bed and drift back to sleep.