Cultural Resources

El Güegüense

January 17 - 27

El Güegüense (also known as Macho Ratón) is a satirical drama and was the first literary work of post-Columbian Nicaragua. It is regarded as one of Latin America's most distinctive colonial-era expressions and as Nicaragua's signature folkloric masterpiece combining music, dance and theater. El Güegüense is performed during the feast of San Sebastián in Diriamba (Carazo department) from January 17 to the 27th. Read more….

Origin

The theatrical play was written by an anonymous author in the 16th century, making it one of the oldest indigenous theatrical/dance works of the Western Hemisphere. It was passed down orally for many centuries until it was finally written down and published into a book in 1942. According to the first written version the plot has 314 lines and was originally written in both Nahuatl and Spanish. The name of the play comes from its main character, El Güegüense, which is derived from the Nahuatl word "huehue", meaning "old man" or "wise man".

Because deception for monetary gain is central to the plot of "El Güegüense", the play frequently is cited by newspaper editorials as a kind of symbolic archetype for perceived corrupt politicians or unaccountable public institutions. Unpredictable election returns also have been attributed to the heritage of the masked "El Güegüense" figure reflected in an electorate skilled at masking their true voting intent, notably so with the FSLN party's crushing, unanticipated defeat at the polls in 1990. While the role of "El Güegüense" as the highest expression of Nicaraguan folkloric art is secure, the overt theme of the play - entry into the aristocratic lifestyle through deceptive means - is frequently held at arm's length in political speeches as contrary to the current vision of national growth occurring through hard work, economic diversification, and manufacturing exports.

"El Güegüense" represents folklore of Nicaragua, therefore, UNESCO proclaimed it a "Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" in 2005 making Nicaragua the only country in Central America and one of six in Latin America to have 2 proclaimed masterpieces by UNESCO.

La Gigantona

December 8

“La Gigantona” is a street play that combines drums, folk verses, and dancing. It was created by the Nicaraguan mestizos (a mix of Spanish people and natives). There are four characters in this artistic work: La Gigantona, El Enano Cabezon, El Coplero and El Tamborilero. Read more…

La Gigantona is a type of a big doll, three meters tall constructed on a light wood frame and covered with a colorful dress and lots of ornamentations. She represents the big white Spanish woman with elegance and power. El Enano Cabezon is a small costumed figure with a big head symbolizing the mestizo, whose intelligence is underestimated by the Spanish colonialists. El Coplero is the person who recites the popular folk verses and the Tamborilero is the one who plays a drum enthusiastically. Two young men go under La Gigantona and El Enano Cabezon figures who take turns dancing at the animated sound of the drums. This tradition is taken through the colonial streets of Granada and Leon. There is a “Gigantona” competition that takes place each December 8th at the Central Plaza in Leon where local judges choose the best ornamented and beautiful “Gigantona”.