Nicaragua: Backstory to “Vendedora de Flores, Fiestas Patronales de San Jerónimo, Masaya”



Vendedora de Flores, Fiestas Patronales de San Jerónimo, Masaya (photo: Bernard Gordillo)

This past September 30th I repeated, for the second time, a pilgrimage that will hopefully continue well into the future: attending the celebration of the Feast of Saint Jerome in Masaya. It is a day that continues to render me speechless. I simply do not have the words to describe how beautiful, uplifting, and emotional it leaves me to witness one of the great Catholic celebrations in Nicaragua. However, I will try to recount it in brief as it relates to a photograph of mine (above).

Among the highlights of the day are attending Mass in the parish church dedicated to the honored Saint, and then going to the procession which travels from said church to the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, located many blocks away, and waiting until the procession returns in the afternoon.

Both Saints Jerome and Michael Archangel are celebrated and carried on a pedestal in the procession by their respective confraternities. The latter joins Saint Jerome on the 30th because Saint Michael’s feast day takes place a day earlier.

After Mass I went to watch the procession, with its many participants and spectators numbering in the thousands. This time, on impulse, I decided to join the procession with camera in hand. I thought I would try and capture the spirit of what it felt like to be in the middle of all that controlled chaos. (View the series here.) I then found myself in the melee of musicians, dancers, and people dressed up as folk characters that walk in front of Saint Michael, which leads the procession. At some point I’d heard that you are supposed to dance as a way of honoring the Saints, and so I got caught up in that, too, while snapping picture after picture.

Among the many people who dress up as folk characters are the “vendedoras” or women vendors, exhibiting brightly colored dresses (elaborately constructed), and wooden baskets balanced on their heads. The contents of the baskets vary, but this year I noticed that flowers were common. One “vendedora” even had the same flowers in her basket as the ones placed on the pedestal of Saint Michael.

The “vendedoras” are not portrayed by women, but by cross-dressing men. I’m not sure as to when this particular aspect of the tradition began, but it does add to joyous eccentricity of the personalities found in the rest of the celebration. In the photo seen above is the “vendedora” I describe, captured as the procession reached Masaya’s central park.

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