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Chronicle: The West goes to Juigalpa

Faustino Salcedo | May 14, 2012

Handcrafts expositor during the fair. | Photographer: Faustino Salcedo

There were presentations on tourism services, gastronomy, nature reserves, museums and crafts, along with cultural events.

As I savored a shrimp ceviche brought from Corinto, made by a lady from Chinandega, while watching on the other side of the street a quesillo of La Paz Centro, flooded by the thick cream that covered the smoking hot tortilas, I thought it was the day in which could meet Juigalpa city, in Chontales, and in addition discover cultural, culinary and tourist elements of Leon and Chinandega through the "Touris Caravan" from the West to the center of Nicaragua. In this case the scenario was the central park of Juigalpa.

Juigalpa is the municipal head of the the department of Chontales, which is characterized by livestock activities. It is a warm city where horse, rodeo bulls and barriers parties are constantly held. In its central park, you will find vendors of crafts, fruit and a variety of foods. Near the end of the afternoon you can see the spectacle of the grackles birds, which with their litmus colors and their songs made that the night came with a touch of triumph.

Upon reaching the city you can feel a busy environment. There are several attractions including the museum and zoo, where you can see the King of the Vultures (Sarcoramphus papa) and the twin brother of the chimpanzee which is at the National Zoo, who were brought from Cuba, according to a native of the area.

It is called "Tourism Caravan", but it really is a two-day fair, that was first held in Estelí, there exponents of the Caribbean Coast participated. In Leon was the second one, which was attended by tourism businesses in the North area of the country. This time it was the turn to Chontales livestock department, where "the rivers are made of milk and the stones are made of curd", or so it was called by people some years ago. In this show of cultural and tourism exchange exhibitors from Leon and Chinandega participated.

Upon arriving at the fair on Saturday May the 12th, the day in which the opening was given, it was easy to notice that one of the great attractions of the event was the spectacle of the legends of Leon. The Colonel Arrechavala was imposed on his horse near the entrance to the event; this recalled the stories that scare the children. They say that the Colonel appears on his white steed at midnight to take with him those who are passed from drinks and the vagues. According to people from Leon, at night in the distance you can hear the cries of Colonel, by the sound of his whip lashing his victims.

Among the exhibited items, you could observe nature reserves, hotels, museums, artisans, restaurants, bars, clothing sales and other elements of the culture of western Nicaragua. On Saturday it was the cultural magazine of Leon, meaning that only cultural activities from that department were held. The cultural magazine of Chinandega was presented on Sunday from 2:00 pm, but that's another fact, another day, another story.

Continuing along the short trip down the street next to Central Park, there was Mrs. Elba Ruiz de Leon, artisan who works with materials from nature and recyclables. Her pieces were of cob, banana bark, paste, leaves of some trees and recycled paper. Her voice trembled to answer questions, her hands showed residues of materials of which she made her crafts. She has 10 years of working this type of parts, she said she learned from some Mexicans, who borrowed her home to teach craft art clases.

The most visited expositions were those in which they were selling food, they were showing from roast beef fried food at the “Fritanga” style to the famous quesillos of La Paz Centro. At seeing these quesillos, it came a curious discussion about the quesillos of Juigalpa; some suggested that they are better, but the conversation does not give any result, since both are from Nicaragua, with different styles clearly, however, both are in the same country and the same people.

Before the last ray of sunlight fell on the city, the parade of legends came led by Colonel Arrechavala and escorted by the "Gigantona" traditional dance which consists of a nine-foot wrist, in which a person enters that make a dance with the "Big head Dwarf" to the beat of drums. The dance alternates with songs, or "bombs".

At the end of this short presentation the organizers proceeded with the opening, led by Mayra Salinas, Vice President of the Nicaraguan Tourism Board (INTUR) and accompanied by the mayors of certain municipalities involved. After the official opening, it was announced the start of cultural events.

The folk Ballet led by dance teacher Rosalpina Vasquez came on stage. In the first dance the dancers were waving the machetes replicas, so hard that you could feel the wind sent by them. Next was the "pregnant cow", is a man dancing with a bow at the waist, bearing the head of a cow.
After so many dances there was a lack of an essential element of Leon, poetry. This city is known as the cradle of Nicaraguan poets, because great poets were born, lived or studied there, such as Alfonso Cortez, Ruben Dario, the writer Sergio Ramírez Mercado, among other greats.

The fair seemed to culminate, poetry was in charge of the poet from León: Francisco Reyes, who recited his poems, some visitors paid attention, others made the attempt, only one thing was inevitable, the end of a day of culture and tourism. The street was running low, but minds were probably full of memories. León was showcased with its culture, its people, its food, its traditions. The next day Chinandega would have the turn to do its thing. Meanwhile, the team of returned to the capital observing the landscape of a road embellished by opaque clouds.

Translated by Aída Pichardo