We had a real treat yesterday when we took the day off to join in the fun of Fiesta Patronales in Altergracia, which is a week-long festival between November 11-18 that culminates with a parade and party at the end (we were there in 2010 too and wrote about it here). The Baile de los Zompopos or Dance of the Leave Cutter Ants is a celebration dance that retells the victory over a large, destructive tribe of leaf cutting ants. The event is held in the streets of Altergracia where participants hold sugar can and tree branches high over their heads while dancing to traditional music. The parade has been held since 1613 in honour of Altergracia’s patron saint, San Diego (there seems to always be some sort of Catholic spin on every fiesta in Nicaragua), but the origins date back to pre-Columbian times (of course) when natives worshipped a harvest god called, Quiateot.
The history goes like this: Xolotl, the god of fire and lightening and of the sick and deformed, he was also the dark personification of Venus and guided the sun into the earth at night. The original celebration was to Xolotl but when the Spaniards got here they decided to mix in one of their patron saints and keep the tradition going; most likely because it was already so deeply engrained in the local history.
This year a whole bunch of us watched the parade, with only Gaia participating fully. It was a bit overwhelming for us all, the action was on high.
(photos by: Dorothee)