Greetings all. I write to you after celebrating Semana Santa (Holy Week) the Nicaraguan way, and I wanted to share with you some of the traditions I got to partake in.
One I’ve found rather bizarre is the practice of setting off non-visual fireworks that sound as if a gunshot has gone off in the street. Coming from the messy and disturbing gun culture of the U.S., I was alarmed at first hearing these. Nicaraguans, however, simply smile and refer to them as bombas. From what I understand, this is a common practice for holidays, birthdays, and other special events, and people are used to hearing them. Maybe I will be too someday.
Perhaps the best part of this week was the eating! And helping make Semana Santa treats. My host family is known in town for making delicious rosquillas, a crunchy, ring-shaped corn and cheese snack, often eaten with coffee.
My family must have spent nearly three full days making rosquillas. First they boiled corn kernels over a cooking fire, then ground them up to make maseca, or corn flour. You can take what you need grinded to a molino with an electrical grinder or sometimes families have their own manual machines.
Once the corn flour is made, you make a dough by adding cheese, milk, and margarine. The ratios of these ingredients all depend on the tastes of the chef. If you like your rosquillas Cheese-it-esque, add more cheese. If you like them buttery, more margarine.
Then the factory work begins. Neighbors, sister-in-laws, and friends gathered at our house to roll out pieces of dough into just the right length snakes, then curl the ends together to make a ring. They made trays and trays of rosquillas! I came home from class one afternoon to see all of this in action.
When you have a nice orderly sheet tray, it goes into the clay oven, where a good ember fire has been produced by the fine lads of the family. At my house, the men took care of taking the trays in and out while the women rolled out rosquillas by the hundreds, but this might not be the case everywhere.
I also learned how to make buñuelos, many thanks to my language facilitator Irena who brought ingredients to make the fried treat.
We first peeled and chopped yucca, a sweet, earthy root, and then added some cheese. Next, we went to one of the afore-mentioned molinos to mix and grind the two together, producing a ricotta-like mixture.
Then we fried them up by the spoonful, finally eating them with a cinnamon-clove honey. Yum!
Another Semana Santa tradition here is to take a trip to the beach, since people have work and school off. I got to join my family on their outing to La Playa de la Virgine, in Rivas, located on the coast of Lake Nicaragua.
Lake Nicaragua is big enough for some waves and even is known for its freshwater sharks. From the beach in Rivas, we had a view of the volcanoes Concepcion and Maderas on the island Omatepe, supposedly a big touristic attraction. What pleasure to float around and look out at those giants!
It was a wonderful day with my host family—all 15 of them: brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, in-laws. We ate homemade coconut ice cream and played volleyball and got sunburnt together. I keep hoping to achieve piel Nica, but lately I’ve just been made fun of for getting red…