18 years later, Nicaragua still surprises visitors
SAN JUAN DE ORIENTE, NICARAGUA — A rainy season cloud bulges out of the sky, about to spill, while sweat streams down my back. A thick crowd has appeared up the narrow cobblestone street. Suddenly, there is music, fireworks erupt and shouting teams of villagers, each carrying a heavy, hardwood tree trunk laden with coconuts, plantains and pineapples, are heading straight for me.
To avoid getting speared, I back up against the home of Juan Carlos Jimenez, a young ceramics artisan I met earlier this afternoon as I walked around San Juan de Oriente, to see how the people were preparing for their annual fiestas patronales to celebrate John the Baptist, the town’s patron saint. Another group crashes by with their fruit, accompanied by cheering crowds and two guys who are smoking cigarettes and using them to light crude rockets.
They are all heading to a giant log structure in front of the mayor’s house, where the teams lash ropes to their poles, then hoist their offerings 20 feet above the ground.