The final week of the Progressio programme was very different to the time before. All projects came to an end and we had to say goodbye to many amazing people we met here. The maize fayre (la feria del maíz) that was held the last working day seemed like the perfect way to finish our trip. It encompassed some of the main themes we were working at in Nicaragua – preserving indigenous traditions, supporting ecological farming and tourism, and encouraging independent businesses and initiatives.
Although this fayre has been around for only thirty years and is held in just a couple of towns, it has very old traditional roots. Maize has been cultivated in the Americas a long time before the arrival of Spanish conquistadores and was the staple food for many civilizations. In addition to being the source of food, it was used for decorations, jewelry, clothing, fuel and other purposes. Even today it is one of the most widely used plants.
Nowadays the maize fayre does not have much to do with indigenous maize gods. No one makes sacrifices in order to increase the yield either. However, the celebration is important in order to remind people the significance of maize and keep the traditions alive. On the day of the fayre, quiet town of Totogalpa livens up with people, food stalls, and most importantly – the procession of maize queens in their decorated carts. This time our group did more than just watched the performance of others; we had a maize queen of our own.
Our visual media reporter, Julie, was selected for this role to represent Casa Gastronomica (a traditional food place that we were helping to build during our stay here); preparations for it took almost the whole week. We had to thread necklaces and bracelets from kernels, decorate the cart, and make her whole outfit from head to toes – everything had to be made from corn. In the end, it was worth the effort. Although she didn’t compete for the maize queen title, the occasion allowed us to feel a part of a community, which was a perfect way to end the project.
Written by Agne Skrebyte, Picture taken by Umar Sadiq.