San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Around San Juan

In Nicaragua, the end of the year is tied to traditional celebrations. Some of them are celebrated all over Central America, while others are specific to Nicaraguan culture and history.

The last month of the year is full of parties, happiness, family traditions, and religion. Massive processions take place all over the country. An inevitable and popular aspect is the gunpowder used in fireworks and firecrackers that loudly accompany the Nicaraguan celebrations.

San Juan del Sur takes these traditions to a fine level. Officially, the holidays begin with “La Purisima,” a celebration dedicated to the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary, on Dec. 8.

But for those in the tourism industry, the “party” really starts with the beginning of the “high season” in November. On Nov. 13, San Juan del Sur celebrated its annual fishing tournament that brings fishermen from all over Nicaragua to participate.

San Juan del Sur’s Biblioteca Pública y Movil celebrated its 9th anniversary on the same day with a crowd of more than 500 children and adults. Prizes were awarded to the best readers and games, crafts and activities filled the park all day. Over 50 middle school students from the Ft. Collins Colorado participated in the event and provided the crafts and activities in the park. Twenty members of the Nicaraguan Library Association were on hand to present awards and participate as well. 

The first night of “ La Purisima” was held at the Catholic Church with parades and the “Toro de Fuego,” which is a person with a papier-mâché bullhead covered in exploding fireworks. The exploding “toro” runs through the street approaching the screaming crowds, who gather to be awed and sometimes terrified! There were also many floats including my favorite, the float of “angelitas” – young girls dressed as angels surround the statue of the Virgin Mary.

The alcaldia this year put on their own version of Purisima on Dec. 11, including a 15-minute fireworks display that shot high in the sky and wowed the town, lighting up the sky for miles. It was a much more impressive pyrotechnical show that the usual bombas, which explode with a loud bang but provide no visual theater. 

The annual Howler Mountain Bike race was held on Dec. 11, starting at the Sports Park and ending with a dinner at the new beach Restaurant Blue Marlin.

 Our newest tourist attraction – the Surf Ranch Jungle Paintball field (www.sur – put in an appearance after the race with a paint ball target practice demonstration.

All of these events are part of the annual celebration for the local population, but it’s a great seasonal attraction for tourists, too. There seems to be a slight upsurge in tourism, as well as reports of recovery in the real estate market as well.

Dec. 12 marked the anniversary of the death of Catholic Priest, poet and revolutionary Gaspar García Laviana, who was killed in 1978.

The memorial at the local Catholic Church commemorated his life. Father García was a fascinating local hero and humanitarian and a piece of local history that can be explored in greater detail with the book Gaspar by David Gullette, a frequent visitor and humanitarian himself. 

Christmas is a family time here, but the main attraction for coming to the beach is for the New Year’s celebrations. Reservations for New Year’s celebrations and hotel stays are beginning briskly.

There is still a great deal of uncertainty about what 2011 will bring, and how Nicaragua’s political scene will shape up in an election year.

However the optimism and spirit of entrepreneurship and adventure and fortitude seems to be as prevalent as ever in San Juan del Sur.

Happy Holidays to everyone.

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