Palo de Mayo

Palo de Mayo
Palo de Mayo is a type of Afro-Caribbean dance that is an essential part of the culture of several communities in the South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region in Nicaragua. It is also the name given to the month-long May Day festival that originated in the Nicaraguan city of Bluefields in the 17th century.

The Palo de Mayo festival, also known as ¡Mayo Ya!, is probably related to the traditional maypole dance that originated in Europe. It is believed to have been brought to Central America in the early 19th century by British settlers. Here the European ribbon pole dance was modified to incorporate elements of an Afro-Caribbean religion common among the Nicaraguan creoles. From Nicaragua the festival spread to Belize and parts of Honduras, Panama and Jamaica.

The Palo de Mayo dance originated during the festival. It is danced to sensual music with intense rhythms that was created specifically for the dance and is also referred to as Palo de Mayo. It is based on a style of Jamaican folk music called mento but has a faster tempo and is played using other instruments. Palo de Mayo has become much more sensual over the years than it used to be.

The Palo de Mayo festival typically starts on May 1 and lasts for an entire month, culminating on the last weekend of May. There are a lot of cultural events held throughout the festival such as concerts, fairs, exhibitions, pageants, and more. But the main highlight of the festival is an open-air dance fiesta with live music. Dancers in vibrant costumes perform Palo de Mayo and other styles of Afro-Caribbean dance such as calypso, punta, etc. Afro-Caribbean dance is also heavily featured in neighborhood parades which take place on weekends.

Another highlight of Palo de Mayo is a food festival where one can sample delicious Caribbean dishes such as coconut bread, rondón (soup made of seafood, coconut milk and plantain), gallo pinto (a traditional dish made with rice and red beans), tostones (twice fried plantain slices), quesillo (a corn tortilla wrapped around a filling consisting of soft cheese, pickles and a special sauce), etc.

The festival ends at midnight of May 21 with the traditional Tululu dance which takes place in several areas of Bluefields. The dance is an ancient tradition honoring Mother Earth and fertility.

Palo de Mayo

Photo: El Pueblo Presidente




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