El Gueguense means “old man” or “wise man.” In the 17th Century, indigenous and mestizo people created a comedy play to mock the rejection of Spanish domination that has turned into a national tradition to protest the negative image that identified the Nicaraguan people. The dance originated in Diriamba, located in the department of Carazo. This story has been passed down for generations but was finally published in 1942. These dances have become a very integral part of the cultural expressions in honor of San Sebastian during the third week of January. The dance is also performed by the descendents of its creators, the community of Diriamba.
There is a large play about the Gueguense, including 14 characters in the play. There is a variety of costumes that are extremely colorful and fun. The Spanish are dressed elegantly and in colonial clothes and high stockings with people wearing masks of a lighter color, mustache, and light colored eyes to represent the Spanish. The mestizos, or the Nicaraguans, use masks with a smaller mustache, straw hat and simpler clothing. They are barefoot or wear sandals and carry a rattle.
The Güegüense describes himself as a merchant who travels between the different colonial territories of Mexico and Central America in order to sell his goods. His sons are his helpers: don Forsico is his right hand whereas don Ambrosio is his detractor. The four animals are his beasts of burden used for doing heavy work. Some interpretations of the story say the Gueguense was a hard-working and prosperous merchant but a rascal while others say that he was almighty and a great man.
My uncle performs in the Gueguense every year and has lots of fun with it. He feels that it is a part of his heritage and loves representing the people in this play. This is something that I haven’t experienced personally, but I would love to finally see it! I have seen it in videos, but never in person. How would you feel about participating in a cultural play?