Song, dance highlight Nicaraguan fest
BY LILA ARZUA
As La Gigantona stepped to the beat, her long arms moved in rhythm
golden chains around her neck glittered and spun.
The 12-foot doll representing Nicaragua's indigenous community
was one of the
many traditions displayed Thursday night to commemorate La Gritería, an annual
festival dedicated to the Virgin Mary. As La Gigantona strutted about the patio
dance floor accompanied by songs of praise and a five-foot dancing partner known
as El Enano, ``the dwarf,'' a growing crowd -- expected to reach at least 2,000 --
cheered the pair on.
``Will anyone lend her a fan?'' asked emcee Denis Perex Sevilla,
who served as
the event organizer at Yambo Restaurant, 1643 SW First St. Yambo has
celebrated Nicaragua's patron saint annually for 18 years.
Members of the audience were invited to approach the flowered
altar and sing to
Consuelo Peralta did so, celebrating the holiday for the first
time in 12 years.
Originally from Nicaragua, Peralta recently moved to Miami from Puerto Rico,
where the holiday is not observed.
``It's something that cannot be forgotten,'' she said.
Although prayer and songbooks were distributed, most in the crowd
words by heart. They also feasted on traditional fare such as roasted beef strips,
fried cheese and plantains.
Many brought children and explained to them the religious and
significance of the holiday.
``It's a devotion we Nicaraguans have through our faith, which
was taught to us by
our families,'' said Rene Ferretti, who has lived in the United States for 19 years.
Marlon Blandón added: ``Here we are able to reunite a tiny piece of Nicaragua.''
The two childhood friends had not seen each other in months until
one another at the celebration.
Yet everyone came together to honor a distinctively Nicaraguan
Pérez, who visits Miami frequently, observed the celebration was almost exactly
the same as in her home country:
``It's nice to feel that there is a part of Nicaragua in Miami.''