MASAYA Known as the cradle of Nicaraguan folklore, the City of Masaya is again demonstrating how it got its reputation as a cultural hub by celebrating its annual three-month patron saint festivities, the longest continuous party in Latin America.
The festivities, which started Sept. 2 with the celebration of Masaya s 169th birthday, run until December in a three-in-one party that combines the city s traditional folkloric celebrations with the national independence holidays and local religious festivities to honor the patron saint San Jeronimo.
The annual party, according to Mayor Orlando Noguera, marks the city s most important tourism draw of the year by offering something for everyone: folkloric dancing, parades, religious processions, horse shows, a bull run and lots of colorful costumes and traditional music.
Noguera, who is finishing his successful four-year term as mayor, says his municipal government is working with the Nicaraguan Tourism Institute (INTUR) and the Institute of Culture to promote the festivities and attract as many national and international tourists as possible.
The department of Masaya, the mayor notes, has all the ingredients to become a major tourist attraction, even after the partying ends. The old marketplace has been converted into the country s main artisans market and folkloric cultural center; the mirador at Catarina offers one of the most popular views in Nicaragua; the Laguna de Apoyo is perhaps the most famous and exotic swimming spot in Central America; and the Masaya Volcano draws thousands of tourists to its smoking crater rim each year.
Yet despite the city s natural advantages to developing a flourishing tourism industry, Masaya is usually treated as a day trip for tourists staying in Granada or Managua. The city itself has had a hard time getting tourists to spend more than a couple hours visiting, and usually that means just a quick stop in the marketplace before getting back on their tour bus.
To convince people to stay in town longer, Noguera says the city needs to continue to improve its image and infrastructure, including building new hotels and restaurants.
We re working with CANTUR and CANATUR to improve the tourism infrastructure and try to get more investment in hostels and hotels, Noguera said.
But it s not only tourism infrastructure that Masaya needs. The city government that Noguera inherited four years ago was indebted and behind schedule on efforts to improve roads, garbage collection and water services.
The Sandinista mayor, however, has tackled those challenges head-on. His government has secured $12.6 million in financing to improve sewage and drinking-water services, work which has already begun. And last week, the government inaugurated a brand new bricked road leading into town from the Carretera Masaya, The Augusto Flores Z Bolivar, which has changed the face of the city.
The mayor has also worked to restore the city s historical patrimony by working to rebuild the historical colonial-style community training center, the mayor s office, the central park and the Malecón boardwalk overlooking the Masaya Lagoon.
The mayor also launched a massive effort to clean-up Masaya and combat the litterbug culture. Weekly trash pickups have been increased, street sweepers hit the roads every morning, dumpsters and trash cans have been placed all around town, and signs have been posted throughout the city to encourage Masayas to not litter.
Part of that effort, Noguera says, has been a promotional campaign called Nicaragua encourage Masayas to take pride in their city and put garbage in its place.
We all have to live in this big house that is Masaya, so we need to keep the city clean Without those two ingredients, he noted, building a tourism industry will be next to impossible, regardless of how wonderful the city s attractions and parties are.