On November 17th, the entire InanItah community loaded up into our neighbor Valencia’s farm truck and made the long bumpy journey into Altagracia to take part in the annual Zompopo festival, the biggest cultural event on Isla de Ometepe. People from all over the island gathered to honor the leaf-cutter ants by waving leaves over their heads and creating a moving, dancing jungle.
The Baile de Zompopo is a millennium old indigenous tradition that began one year when the Zompopos (leaf cutter ants) were destroying the November corn harvest. The priests of the indigenous population of Altagracia came up with a solution: to honor the leaf cutter ants in the name of Xolotl, the harvest god, who would ask the ants to return to their homes in the forest. It worked, the harvest was saved, and the people continue to honor the Zompopos through sacred dance and procession to this day.
The Zompopo parade was in full swing when we arrived and some InanItah volunteers jumped right in and danced with the procession, carrying their ceremonial leaves and fitting right into the mix. After the parade we attended the Zompopo day rodeo, a combination of an American rodeo and Spanish style bull fighting, nearly a hundred Nicaraguans and a mad Austrian from InanItah, gathered in a inside the large ring awaiting the release the large and angry bulls.
We were enchanted by both the frivolity and the sacredness of this event. And, we had fabulous time.