Wednesday, December 14, 2016

La Purisima, loud and beautiful

La Purisima, is the loud and beautiful 9 day celebration for the Virgin Mary. In Nicaragua, no celebration is complete without copious amounts of fireworks and penetratingly loud music. What distinguishes la Purisima from other celebrations is that it starts at 4 in the morning, each of the nine days. Allow me to give you an example of how we were woken up each day during the festivities. At 4 in the morning, a burst of between 6 and 10 large skyrockets were shot in the air. The stillness of the city was officially broken, all while her residents were in their deepest slumbers. A half hour later, at 430 A.M. sharp (the only punctual thing in Granada) the parade started with a marching band, followed by large buses and trucks blaring their fog horns. Holding up the rear was a small beat up pickup truck packed with gigantic speakers that were larger than the truck itself, playing religious music at concert level loudness. The windows in our home and the fillings in my teeth vibrated from the sounds from two streets away and they were headed straight for us. The parade passed us by and my wife, children and I  were staring at each other, at 440 in the morning, shell shocked, all awake and nothing to do.
    If it happened just once, no problems, I wouldn't have even mentioned it in the blog. However, after 9 days of the BOOM BOOM sleep deprivation caused by the skyrockets and music, it started to feel more like torture than a celebration. After just a few days, our mental cognition dropped to that of sea slugs. I find it difficult to describe the affects of loud skyrockets and firecrackers exploding for 21 hours a day, all around you, for 9 long days. For us, there was no chance of escape because we live in an open air house, our bodies felt the explosions of each skyrocket. Thus, ear plugs would have been no use for us. We tried to squeeze in power naps when we could but the restful, restorative sleep was unattainable for a week and a half.
    The Granadines really love their festivals and cultural heritage which was plainly evident in their smiles. For me, each time I tried to smile it felt more like I was suffering a mini stroke not allowing my cheeks to tighten. Exhaustion is something nursing mothers, firefighters, or infantry men in a foxhole are familiar with and they could relate to our sleep deprivation. However, for the average reader it would be hard to comprehend how lifting a coffee cup to your mouth was such a heavy burden. Days blended into nights and the BOOMS went on and on and on. At one point I counted large skyrockets exploding every 6 seconds, which went on and on, seemingly, in perpetuity. Though the noise was insane for us Gringos, those same exact sounds were music for the Granadine's ears, whom openly celebrated their faith and love for the Virgin Mary. The last day of Purisima was held about 100 meters from our house. When I walked to the store, the morning after, I passed the corner where all the action was. I ended up walking ankle to shin deep through the papers of the exploded firecrackers. I hear Christmas and New Years will be even bigger and more encompassing, if that is even possible. We, however, are happy to be visiting relatives in the U.S. during that time frame.
    The history of la Purisima is slightly different depending on the city you hear the fable. Since we are in Granada, I will share their version. In December 1721, the British and Spanish fought a battle near El Castillo on the San Juan river. The Brits ended up throwing the statue of the Virgin Mary into the San Juan river during the assault. Miraculously the statue of Mary, still in her glass case, floated up stream and into Lago Colcibolca  (Lake Nicaragua). On December 7th, 1721 some peasant women were washing their clothing along the lake shore and discovered the statue floating in the water. The statue eventually made it to Granada, where it still resides to this day. During each la Purisima, the same historic statue is moved around the city, once per day, so the Virgin Mary can be part of each neighborhood. The devout are absolutely elated with the Virgin Mary and she helps the community in ways not seen and in more profound ways than one can explain. As for the fireworks, well we have learned, they are the exclamation points of Granadine love.    

Moving the statue during the day

Truly amazing levels of noise at 430 in the morning.

Early hours of the street festival.

Right outside our front door.

Men carried the statue of Virgin Mary between her celebration spots. It is a tremendous honor to be able to carry the statue.

People gathering to pay their respects to the Virgin Mary.

Dr. Matt walking with Sierra and Elena, Zoe and Amara are further ahead.

A family friendly place.

The early hours of the celebration down our street.

This is the original statue of the Virgin Mary found floating in the lake in 1721.

The girls and I made a wall mounted Christmas tree this year.

Mini statues are brought door to door for the elderly to be able to pray and pay homage.

The San Francisco convent, in central Granada, is popular during la Purisima.

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