Traditions and Culture
Traditions, Myths & Legends of Nicaragua
The Gigantona stems from the era of the Spanish Colonization (1522 – 1821) of the indigenous peoples of present day Nicaragua. The Spaniards brought with them from Spain the Gigantes, giant hollow figures several meters tall with a paper maché head and arms, and wood or aluminum frames covered in opulent clothing depicting archetypes of the town such as the bourgeois, or historical figures of local relevance. The figures are controlled by someone from inside the structure. They move and shake in a dance usually accompanied by a local marching band.
The indigenous created the Gigantona, which reflects the severe clash between two cultures. The Gigantona was originally an expression of protest, perhaps even a sign of disrespect for the Crown of Spain and its Spanish Conquistadors who abused and humiliated Nicaragua's people and trampled their religious traditions.
There are four characters in the Gigantona:
El Baile de Negras
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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