I got into Diriamba right on time to see La Procesión del Tope and St. Sebastian's return to Diriamba. In Nicaragua, just about every city has a patron saint (Diriamba's is St. Sebastian) and the city celebrates their saint's day with festivals, processions, and folkloric dances. On August 3rd, Jinotepe (a neighboring city) celebrates its saint's (Santiago) day. A statue of St. Sebastian and one of St. Mark (for the city of San Marcos) spend the week in Jinotepe's main church to celebrate Santiago. On the last day of the festivities, the statues are returned to their city/church in a procession from one city to the other.
In the above picture, St. Sebastian (left) is being returned to Diriamba, accompanied by Santiago (center) and St. Mark.
Along with the procession of the saints from one city to the other, the festivities include a marching band, a group of people on horses, carga cerradas (chains of fireworks), and the folkloric dance of El Toro Huaco. The dance has it's roots in an indigenous legend known as "El Cacaste". It used to be an indigenous ritual but was adapted into a Spanish and Catholic dance in celebration of St. Sebastian. Each of the dancers is a promesante which means they prayed to St. Sebastian for a favor and promised to dance in the procession in return.
I noticed a lot more graffiti in Diriamba than I did when I visited last year. Some of it is vandalism and others are murals that were legally painted. At first, it was a little disheartening seeing so many historic or antique buildings in ruins, covered in graffiti, and/or breaking down. It is giving Diriamba a look of a run down city, a ghost town, or of a "bad neighborhood". However, after some thought, I realized there is actually a lot of potential for restoration and beautifying without ignoring this popular medium.
I would love to one day have a cultural and art exchange in Diriamba like AOS provides in Estelí and San Juan de Limay. Seeing all the graffiti made me think that a collaborative spray paint mural could have a positive response or would muster up a lot of interest. However, there is also the possibility of it being tagged or vandalized.
It was also so great seeing my family. My great grandmother really did not look well and I was worried that would be the last time I saw her. Fortunately, she is recovering and when I left, she looked so much better! If all goes well, we plan on going back to celebrate her 102nd birthday next summer. My visit gave my great aunt and I time to talk about family, my dad's childhood and father, my great grandparents, and the revolution.
My visit also worked as a transition period between the independence I experienced while in Esteli and Limay and depending/responding to my parents as the ones in charge. During the time we had in Esteli to work on our independent projects, I could explore the city alone, eat whenever/wherever I wanted, and make my own schedule. At home in Miami, I am under my parents rules and can't freely roam around because of responsibilities I have to attend to and a lack of a car. So, in Diriamba my dad and great aunt were making family visit and eating decisions for me, but I could walk from one grandma's house to other's on my own. It was unexpected and a little annoying to be told where and when I could go or couldn't go places, but it was helpful for getting when I got back to Miami. Now, I want to go back, but experience Diriamba on my own in order to discover things I wouldn't otherwise if I had a family member looking over me (just as I experienced in Esteli and Limay).