Nicaragua: Misa Popular Nicaragüense



At quick glance, the original LP cover of the Misa Popular Nicaragüense (above) appears to be a traditional depiction of the Crucifixion. However, look closer and you’ll notice something altogether different, perhaps more disturbing, albeit, still recalling Christ on the Cross.

A suffering campesino has been stripped naked and crucified on a tree, clothes lying on the ground at the foot of the “cross.” There is no indication as to who he might be or where he is from; he represents an Everyman.

The campesino is accompanied by witnesses to the right and left.

Those nearest on the left appear to be his family: a pregnant, barefoot wife looks up at her husband while crying out in agony as she suffers for her husband’s fate. She holds a baby in one arm as another child stands at her side. Both children are naked and emaciated.

Further out on the left is a man holding a menacing dog at bay, keeping the family, or anyone else for that matter, from coming to the aid of the condemned.

In the background, a house has been set on fire. Could it be the family’s?

To the right of the campesino on the cross is a larger group of witnesses, the nearest of which is a trio of soldiers—a guardia—who “guard” with rifles pointed at the condemned; the exaggerated size of the bayonets amplifies the menacing nature of their gesture.

Another trio, a group of bishops (?), does not appear to be to be looking at the campesino, but to themselves. One even covers his eyes, yet peeks out at the horrid scene before him. Is he a witness who is reluctant to see?

Behind the bishops are five anonymous men, who are curious about the scene, yet register no reaction, no emotion.

In front of the bishops is a highly decorated general, seated and holding a bone in his right hand. The bone might be the equivalent of a scepter or a reference to an inside joke (maybe something sinister). It is unclear. Does it mock?

In the background, high upon a hill is a fortress. And above, carrion birds hover and wait for an opportunity.

The entire scene reminds me of a Spanish Inquisition auto da fe.

The art work, created by Nicaraguan artist Leoncio Sáenz in 1969, is in black and white except for the capitalized letters of the title and the fire emanating from the burning house. It is a commentary, presumably, on the political and religious atmosphere in Nicaragua at the end of the 1960s.

Premiered in 1968, the Misa popular nicaragüense was jointly created by Fr. José de la Jara, who wrote the text, and Manuelito Dávila, who composed/adapted the music. Both are heard on the original recording (produced on a date yet to be confirmed), as are musicians Ángel Cerpas and Juan José Mendoza.

Fr. de la Jara was parish priest of the community of San Pablo Apóstol, located in an eastern barrio of Managua (known today as Colonia Nicarao). It was through his impetus that the Misa popular ultimately came into being as an expression of faith by the community (heard singing responses on the recording), and by extension, the Theology of Liberation (developed as a result of Vatican II) as practiced by de la Jara.

The Misa popular was composed a number of years before its more famous and highly celebrated cousin, the Misa Campesina Nicaragüense of Carlos Mejía Godoy (1975). It may be the first in Latin America among post-Vatican II popular masses without which the Misa campesina might have never existed.


“Credo” from Misa popular nicargüense.

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Text of the “Credo”:

Creemos en un solo Dios.
Padre nuestro omnipotente,
y en Jesucristo, su Hijo,
que nació de nuestra gente.

En ti creemos, Señor,
ilumina nuestras mentes,
ilumina, ilumina nuestras mentes.

Cristo vivió entre los hombres,
compartiendo nuestra suerte,
y por nosotros murió
padeciendo amargamente.

En ti creemos, Señor….

Resucitó al tercer día,
dominando así a la muerte.
Está sentado a la diestra
de Dios Padre para siempre.

En ti creemos, Señor….

Y en el Espíritu Santo,
de la caridad la fuente,
que está en la Iglesia de Cristo,
invitando a toda gente.

En ti creemos, Señor….

Creemos que Cristo vendrá,
repartiéndonos sus bienes.
En ti creemos, Señor,
la Nación Nicaragüense.

En ti creemos, Señor….


Las Misas Nicaragüenses: Popular, Campesina, y del pueblo by T.M. Scruggs (University of Iowa)

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