I woke up to the sound of sirens and a marching band at 4:30am. This is not unusual…in Bluefields they love love love giving people early-morning reminders that the day means something. Christmas, Easter, FSLN wins an election, PLC wins an election, grandma finally had a solid bowel movement, Thursdays, whatever the reason, it’s usually a day of playing the what makes today so special game to figure it out.
Last Thursday I finally figured it out when I went downtown to grab a bite at one of my favorite creole restaurants and saw a big crowd gathered around a tiny marching band. Above them was a sign strung across the street that read: Vive San Jeronimo!
OF COURSE! San Jeronimo, the patron saint of…well, not here, is a month-long festival in…well, not here. It was brought over from Masaya by a resident doctor here in Bluefields many years ago and has taken on a life of its own.
The big day is on the 30th, but you can hear small 4-piece drumming and horn groups gathering in the evenings in different parts of the city nearly every day the week prior. On the big day you will find roving bands of people blocking the streets drumming and dancing dressed as old women with big butts, scary black horses and little kids dressed as red devils. They will move as a big, drunken procession up and down the neighborhoods, stopping every once in a while to drum and dance in an intersection, private driveway or anywhere they are called to.
San Jeronimo is a saint of interesting interpretation down here. What the festival is best known for is the random “attacking” of women on the street by the nalgonas, or women with big butts. They will be seen dancing around with their reed fans and then, almost on cue, surround an unsuspecting female, swatting her with their fans in a startling but (usually) harmless onslaught.
Below are a few images from 2010…