BLUEFIELDS – Originally a Pagan celebration of fertility dating back to Medieval England, the May Pole tradition was introduced to the Caribbean port town of Bluefields by British pirates in the early 19th century.
Over the years, the celebration has become mixed with local expressions, rhythms and movements to evolve into the sensuous – and often sexually explicit – dance that it is today.
The annual May Pole festival in Bluefields, celebrated every year during the last weekend of May, is the Caribbean Coast’s most important cultural event of the year, bringing together dancers from nearby towns, the Corn Islands, the Pearl Keys, and as far north as Puerto Cabezas, in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS).
The weekend celebration will be complete with a local regatta, a hípica horse parade, a gastronomical fair, live music concerts, a pageant to crown “Miss May Pole,” and – of course – the main attraction: the May Pole dance-parade, known as “Tulululu Pasa.”
The May Pole parade, named after the song that people sing while dancing the May Pole, pits various neighborhoods against each other in a competition of dance and costume.
Each participating neighborhood has its own colorful costumes, usually something to represent the rains and fertility of Spring and the phallic prowess of man.
The Tulululu song, which has been made widely popular by Bluefields music group Dimensión Costeña, inspires different dance steps from different people.
The older May Pole participants usually carry branches with fruit tied to it to represent fruit trees. The branches are held up on the street while the participants dance around, giving thanks for nature’s bounty.
But with the younger dancers, the message of nature seems to be more about the birds and bees rather than oranges and mangos.
The aggressive, sexual nature of the dancing also rattles the sensibilities of some of the local elders, who claim the celebration has become too raunchy in recent years.
“It’s an abomination,” says Elizabeth Forbes, the town’s local historian, known simply as “Miss Lizzy.”
The dance and music, Miss Lizzy explained, is supposed to be sensual, deliberate and suggestive, without all the grinding.
“Lately, I find things are getting out of hand,” she laments.