Bret’s assertive response was “We should.”
That was a part of their conversation during a road-trip on past Christmas Eve, going from Granada, Nicaragua to Tegucigalpa, Honduras in Central America. The highway was winding up and down through the mountainous regions. They came to know from Mr. Pedro Martinez, their knowledgeable driver-cum-guide that they would by-pass the town of León. Historically, the town had been the intellectual center of Nicaragua. Lately León served as the birthplace of the Sandinista Revolutionary Movement establishing the current government. In addition, León has been a coastal town on the Pacific Ocean offering a magnificent view of the surrounding nature.
So, the decision was made to stop by. They arrived at the town in the late afternoon and headed straight toward the beach. From the deck of a bar, they viewed a glorious sunset, while drinking shots of locally produced rum. Disappearing sunrays near the horizon began to fragment into all the colors of a rainbow, while the soothing sound of the breaking waves surrounded the nature with a kind of mysticism.
The beach was within a short walking distance from the central market of the town. Arriving at the market at dusk, they found it packed with local citizens, busy with holiday shopping. They sat down for an early dinner in an outdoor café. Soon, they started hearing the sound of drums emanating from different directions. It turned out that, in the evenings of the Christmas season, local teenagers would come out to act out the folklore "La Gigantona". According to a version of the folklore, the show evolved to project the assimilation of the Colonial Spanish culture and its religious traditions with the culture and beliefs of the indigenous mestizo people. Thus, “La Gigantona”, a tall Caucasian woman puppet dressed with a colorful gown adorned with jewelries, carried by an unseen teenager, represented a Spanish woman with beauty and elegance, while wielding power. She is surrounded and followed around by a few “Pepe Cabezón” (big-headed) characters wearing big black head-gears representing short but not-so-smart indigenous men.
As they watched, various groups started to crisscross the plaza stopping for a performance in front of the café. “La Gigantona” of the group danced wildly while “Pepe Cabezón-s” shook their huge heads up and down. Meanwhile, one member started to recite “coplas” (poetic sayings of praise) in a loud voice to the spectators while the drums played on. Small donations were collected at the end and the groups then headed towards various local neighborhoods.
Interestingly, in another explanation of the show’s theme, it could very well be a representation of the historic domination of the Spanish colonialism over the poor and marginalized mestizo population.
“So, was it about cultural assimilation or systemic racism?” Sheila asked.
“Either way, it was quite a serendipitous experience.” Bret replied.
Mr. Martinez was already driving toward next destination.