For 19 years, Luis Berríos has been getting up early to participate, painted in black and dancing, in the procession of Santo Domingo, the unofficial patron of Managua, in a pleasant tradition that began in 1885.
Before the start of the procession through the streets of the capital of Nicaragua, Berríos, a 29-year-old municipal employee, takes off his shirt and stains his arms and torso with burnt motor oil to dress up as a “little devil”.
As he dances, he accompanies the procession. “Long live Santo Domingo de Guzmán,” he shouts in the midst of collective ecstasy. Like Berríos, thousands of people dance and “pay” promises for favors received in the popular celebration of Santo Domingo.
The festivities had government authorization to take place on the street, unlike other processions that were restricted by the government of Daniel Ortega to the interiors of churches, amid his confrontation with the clergy.
Local authorities also took part in the pilgrimage, while musicians from philharmonic bands, called “chicheros,” entertained the journey. Many devotees wore white shirts with the slogan “We walk together,” chosen by the Church for the celebration.
During the preparations for the celebration, the Archbishop of Managua, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, participated in the “descent” of the image of Santo Domingo from his altar in Las Sierritas, in a popular ceremony attended by Sandinista mayor Reyna Rueda, who also serves as “stewardess” of the festivities.
The celebrations in Managua, which extend over ten days, begin with the transfer of the small image of the saint from the parish of Las Sierritas, in a residential area in the south of the capital, to the church of Santo Domingo, in the old city center.
While he remains in Santo Domingo Church, the saint is taken to tour different neighborhoods of Managua, until August 10, another massive procession returns him to Las Sierritas.
In the parade, thousands of people accompanied the transfer of Santo Domingo, also known as “Minguito”. The image, about 20 centimeters high, toured the streets protected by a glass capsule that travels on a wooden base adorned with abundant flowers. The caravan advanced with leaps and dances.
“At this time, I believe that as we have said in the slogan, walking together means helping each other, respecting each other, being brothers, as the Gospel said today, I think that is a great lesson for us today, for life and for the society in which we live,” says the parish priest of Las Sierritas church, Boanerges Carballo.
Payment of favors
To “Minguito” the faithful attribute his divine intervention to obtain favors, mainly to heal the sick. The fervor for this saint is such that it displaced the official patron of Managua, Santo Santiago. The “promisers” attend the processions every year to “pay” because they consider that the saint helped them so that God granted them some miracle.
Some people wear folkloric costumes or carry indigenous outfits, and many cover their skins in black with polish or oil, like Berríos, who comments that he has been “paying promises” since he was 10 years old.
And although last year he already fulfilled all his promises, Berríos relates that he started a new account because the saint helped his wife successfully undergo surgery. The promise implies attending the procession for another 10 years to thank Santo Domingo.
“It means a lot because he is a very miraculous little saint, if you ask with faith, he fulfills you,” said Berríos. According to the tradition of popular religiosity, the image of Santo Domingo de Guzmán was found in 1885 in the hollow of a tree, in what was then the farmland area of Las Sierritas.
Later, a hermitage was built at the site and the tradition of carrying the image to the old center of Managua began.