MANAGUA – Hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans turned out last Sunday to participate in and view a huge procession in honor of Santo Domingo de Guzman, this capital’s patron saint, in a celebration mixing prayers, dancing, liberal consumption of alcohol, and both Catholic and pagan rites.
Nicaragua’s most famous festival began on Aug. 1 but ended Sunday with the traditional “walking up” of the saint’s old statue – 7 inches high – to its altar in the Las Sierritas Church in south Managua, where it resides for most of the year.
The enormous procession left the Santo DomingoChurch in Managua’s old downtown, which was largely destroyed by the 1972 earthquake, where the statue had been housed for the past 10 days.
The 12-kilometer pilgrimage of “Minguito,” as the capital’s patron saint is called, was accompanied by masses of the faithful reciting prayers and giving thanks to the saint, requesting personal miracles, making solemn promises and the like.
Police estimated that some 600,000 people took part in Sunday’s procession, and the marchers – some of whom proceeded with their eyes blindfolded or on their knees in penance – were accompanied by bands.
Many of the so-called “promise makers” had painted their bodies with black grease and motor oil or dressed up in typical costumes, like Indians or as African slaves.
The small statuette of Santo Domingo, which has a very heavy base, was carried on their shoulders by some of the marchers, who danced slowly with their burden accompanied by fireworks and bands playing folk music.
Over the past 10 days, Managua has experienced a pageant of colorful costumes, fireworks, folk music and all sorts of other celebratory revelry in honor of Santo Domingo.
The festivities were presided over by Managua Mayor Dionisio Marenco, and some 4,500 people – police, former youth gang members, Red Cross personnel and firefighters – were detailed to provide security and other services during the 10-day celebration.
This Sunday, the hípica is in Granada.