Thursday, April 11, 2013

Before we depart Nicaragua there remains the mystery of San Benito of Palermo or Saint Benedict the Moor or Saint Benedict the Black.
Having not expired in the earthquake or its aftershocks, we woke the next morning to ride the top of the bus to El Viejo, then to Chinandega, and then we drove back to León, where we couldn’t drive anywhere we thought we needed to go because the streets were all blocked with Passion Carpets and children dressed in white gowns sweeping. Passion carpets (nothing to do with rug-burn) or alfombras pasionarias, are religious images created on the streets with colored sawdust.
You will note that what started, presumably, as families and friends creating street art, has now fallen into the snake pit of corporate sponsorship. Yet another paradigm of life’s disconnects to be found on one dusty street in Nicaragua: the Central Bank of a Sandinista country sponsoring a Christian holiday that features a cruel crucifixion, and a foretold resuscitation, in neon bright colors.
I have not discovered why there was a festival and parade in honor of San Benito in León on the Monday of Semana Santa. It was not the feast of San Benito, which I have since learned is April 4th. (He died of natural causes, nothing gruesome to report in that department.). In order to celebrate San Benito, the folks of León dress in white robes, and by that I mean that all over town, from the supermarkets to the restaurants to insurance agencies, random people wear white robes over their clothes. And they carry brooms and they sweep. There is a lot of sweeping going on with no visible reduction of debris. Several inquiries by me elicited that San Benito was a baker and that is why people carry brooms and sweep. Huh? Sweeping up the flour? No one would explain, though several people clearly thought I was minus a hammer & wrench in the cerebral tool chest. Later in the day there was a parade and San Benito, along with a cohort of other holies, was carried aloft through the streets of León by swaying bearers. Since León’s streets are crisscrossed by webs of electric and telephone wires, the parade is accompanied by men with long crotched wooden sticks to raise the wire over the passing saints. We watched and held our breath, anticipating tangles and sparks, but that never happened. The saints passed through.

The next day we flew out of Sandino International Airport.

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