Drunken bull riding and sawdust carpets —lesser known festivals in Sept.

Anyone who has put in the effort to get to know the real Nicaragua knows that the country needs little reason to celebrate, be it New Year’s Eve or an obscure saint celebration in a hamlet that doesn’t even warrant a spot on the map.

September is an average month for festivals with the big ones being Central America’s Independence Day on the 15th and the start of the three months of San Jeronimo in Masaya on the 30th. While these two well-known festivals get most of the attention, here are two more fun festivals that are off the radar for most people.

La Paz Centro is little more than a refueling stop for most travelers between Managua and Leon, but on Sept. 10 it erupts in alegría with the celebration of San Nicolás de Tolentino. As is the custom for most fiestas patronales, the statue of the saint is carried on the shoulders of the faithful from the church through the town, accompanied by fireworks, marching bands and lots of local women with open umbrellas as protection from the inclement sun (or rain, whichever the case may be).

The parade is followed by an afternoon rodeo where the bulls are blessed by a priest before being being mounted by the not-blessed bull riders (many of which bless themselves with rum beforehand). If you have yet to see a Nicaraguan rodeo then you haven’t experienced Nicaragua. This is your chance.

sawdust carpets
Casey Callais

Two weeks later on Sept. 24 León celebrates the Virgen de la Merced, as does Matagalpa and Chinandega. But if you have to pick one, make it León because it is here that they decorate the day’s solemn procession with sawdust “carpets” painstakingly created in the early morning hours.

These are true works of art with giant biblical scenes and religious designs carefully crafted with a broad palette of colors of painted sawdust. The sawdust carpets are reserved for Easter week and celebrations of great religious importance such as today.

September is also the month to see the election of the Indita Bonita in Monimbo and Chichigalpa’s anniversary, as well as pre-party preparations for San Jeronimo. Wherever you may be in Nicaragua, take advantage of the culture that surrounds you and go visit one of the many festivals or events that makes this country so unique.

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