Thursday, April 11, 2013

Ride On, Gringo

In case you didn’t know, every Nicaraguan town goes crazy once a year. These giant, yearly parties are the fiestas patronales, and this year I got to be in it.

The fiestas patronales are related to the Catholic patron saint for every town. In some towns more than others, this bares more resemblance to pre-Christian harvest festivals and deity celebrations. There are processions, dances, bands in the street, but the main attraction is the horse parade known as the Hipica.

The Hipica is made up of horse enthusiasts from all over Nicaragua and even outside sometimes. They come to the town to ride from street to street, covering every barrio of whichever location they’re in, be it a tiny pueblo or even Managua.

The hipicos are the people who organize and ride in the parades. They elect a Novia de la Hipica every year. It’s similar to a festival queen like we have back in Texas with the watermelon queen, pecan queen, peach etc. My fiancé, Kathya, was elected in 2009 and traveled to several festivals representing her pueblo.

Toña beer, the unofficial beer of Nicaragua, sponsors almost every hipica event in the country. Their cantina float is always seen in the parade as the scantily clad Chicas Toñas dance to cumbia music and the cheers of many inebriated fans.

When it was La Paz de Carazo’s turn for the fiestas, I got a very rare opportunity - to ride in the local hipica! My fiancé’s family owns a horse that is trained for these types of parades. El Mayor, as he is called, stands about 16 hands and when he bounces up and down as he trots, he looks even bigger.

The hour came for me to mount up and join the throng of riders as they poured into our street. I was quite the sight, being the only gringo riding in the parade and maybe the only gringo to have ever ridden in La Paz.

The hipicas are a real phenomenon. All classes of society come together for the event as complete equals. You’ll see fancy dressed aristocrats riding horses worth more money than I’ve ever made right alongside poor farmers on their mules. But no matter, they toast their toñas with each other and raise their cans to the patroness of La Paz all the same.

After riding for over an hour, I got off my steed to the cheers of Kathya’s 4 and 6 year old nieces. The day was getting late and the heat of the afternoon sun on the street was becoming too much for me or the horse. And so this gringo hung up his hat and called it a day. 

 Good ride, cowboy.