Cultural Experiences pt II: Hipica, Celebrating 120 years of Estelí

Hípica’s are a campo tradition in Nicaragua. One of rodeos, bull fighting and beer with locals dressed in jeans, cowboy hats and chaps.

I asked an English-speaking local at a restaurant on Sunday morning, as the full-fledged party was being constructed in the heart of Estelí, if it’s true that bull fighting is illegal, and why they’ve been occurring the past few days. His answer in broken English was that all things legal in Nicaragua are fuzzy lined. He went on to describe the treatment of animals as barbaric, and that he chooses to avoid the bull fights, but enjoys the horse riding.

Estelí is a roughneck-cowboy town known for tobacco, leather and coffee. Even residing from Montana (of course Missoula is 30 minutes away from real Montana) it’s odd to see people riding horses amid taxis, buses and cars.

The climax of Estelí’s Hípica brought people from all around the region, wearing their Sunday best button ups and wide-brimmed hats for a full day of food venders, beer and celebration. Structures and stages were being constructed in the part next to the cathedral, and stands and merchants were out in full force.

Of course being a couple of Americans, Scott and I started the morning on a food and drink adventure. Our first stop was an attempt to find a local treat — iguana soup. Turns out we both lack any knowledge of the local language, so we settled with a chicken stew and bull balls with a side of Toñas (the local beer favorite). After lunch we found a liquor store and purchased a couple bottles of rum and a bottle of cheap moonshine-esque liquor.

It was just the start of a long drunken stupor.

We left the hostel promptly at noon to find the rumored 200 cordoba party, where it’s all you can drink. We concluded that the rumors were false. Instead, we pub-crawled, beer stand to beer stand, drinking one, people watching and then moving to the next.

The people watching was spectacular. Kayla was on her A-game, whenever a peddler came up to us to sell sunglasses (everyone was selling sunglasses!), she would say, “un dolla?” The glasses were three. The peddler would grow frustrated and move one. We saw an old gringo, who looked like he took a wrong turn from a Miami country club; a young boy, carrying a fake-plastic bull; and Hannah sneaking into the bathroom of the hamburger place and running from the server.

It was a day of losing the crew and discovering them again. It seemed like every turn we made, we ran into someone we knew (even in a large city.) We finally rendezvoused again after a rest and some rum at the hostel. It turned out, Mark, Kayla and Hannah’s friend from Trinidad, found out how to get into the club.

The complex was overwhelming. The hard sun beating, and the eyes of the mustard yellow cathedral staring down. Young people were decked out in make-up, their best Abercrombie polos and fake Ray Bans, as they threw 220 cordobas at the poor employee sitting in the vendor.

When we paid our cords, Scott, Su and I thought if we were going to be in a place full of terrible music and grinding, we better get our money’s worth. Oh and did we ever. Each trip to the bar we carried away three drinks, one for each of us. The drinks were terrible, made of low quality syrups that masked the liquor completely.

Scott, the experienced drinker he is, showed me a trick that proved a great success throughout the six hours of continuous trips. We started tipping one bartender only 5 or 10 cords each return, but as the night progressed and the crowed grew more rowdy an impatient, the kid would spot us three rows behind customers and tend to us first.

It was truly amazing, but quite detrimental. Scott ended up getting his camera stolen, and as he punched at the thief, he cut his fist, but managed to get his phone.

Note: never keep things in your back pocket at a club or concert.

The music was intense, and the bass loud — a blend of American pop, Latin reggaeton and Mexican mariachi mix-ups. Despite how terrible it was we danced until the doors shut — at 8 p.m.

It was a mess. Scott was holding himself up by a pole next to the bar. (Did I mention his experience? He thought I would go first. HA.) Su found a Nica girl, and he needed the hostel for 400 cordobas (for some unknown reason), and Kayla broke her flip-flop, which was a catastrophe that ended with Hannah overwhelmed, until Mark came to the rescue.

Scott leaned his 6-foot-5 frame against me the whole way home, and when we arrived I told him he should compose himself. He stood up straight, walked past employees and when the coast was clear, slammed into the water cooler knocking it over. It was a spectacle beyond belief. Scott passed out in a rocking chair, Su lost his girl and Hannah and Kayla were off somewhere dancing in the street. It took greasy Nica pizza and a day or recovery to clear the fog.

Hasta luego,



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