Sunbonnet Sue dances “La Vaquita” in Nicaragua!

Sunbonnet Sue looks very festive in her bright red dress trimmed with vintage pink rickrack  (given to me by my mom) and wearing a red hat covered in flowers.   The mask she’s holding is supposed to resemble the face of a cow (una vaca).  The folkloric dress worn by Sunny Sue was first introduced during regional festivities in Managua.

In these festivities, the  “La Vaquita” costume is composed of a hoop around the waist, decorated to make it look like a shirt.  In the front, an image or a painting of a cow’s head is attached and finished with either real or fake horns.  The dancer carrying “La Vaquita” is generally wearing a red huipil or dress and the dancer’s clothing and hair as well as “La Vaquita” are generally bedecked in masses of flowers.   Every July-August, there is a Santo Domingo procession.  The  women who brings vows or promises to Santo Domingo created and use this costume while accompanying the saint as he travels between churches each year.  As they travel with the saint, Las Vaquitas are dancing to the so-called “toros” songs of the chicheros (chicha sellers) and interacting with other dancers dressed as bulls.

By now you might be wondering, “What is chicha?”   Chicha de maiz (chicha from corn) is a traditional drink in Nicaragua.   It is a typical drink, usually unfermented and served very cold.  It is often flavored with banana or vanilla flavors, and its saleswomen can be heard calling “¡Chicha, cafe y jugo frio!” in the squares and streets of Managua, Leon, Granada, and Masaya.  Nicaraguan “chicha de maiz” is made by soaking the corn in water overnight. On the following day it is ground and placed in water, red food colouring is added, and the whole mixture is cooked. Once cooled, sugar and more water is added. On the following day, the maker adds further water, sugar and flavoring. Although fermented chicha is available, the unfermented type is the most common.   Nicaraguan party-goers usually enjoy the pink chicha the day after a big night out, as a cure for the common hangover.

Chicha is a term used almost the entirety of Latin America to describe several varieties of fermented and non-fermented beverages.   Most often chicha is made from corn.  However, depending on the country or region, chicha can also be made from manioc root (yuca or cassava), grape, apple or other fruits, and rice.   While chicha is most commonly associated with corn or maize, it generally means any homemade fermented or non-fermented drink.   And, well, chicha is an acquired taste, so sample it with care.

I hope that I leave you inspired to create, to embroider, to quilt, to applique, and to dance your own dance.  I leave you with a beautiful and interesting flower I saw recently at a local plant nursery.

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