Annual Hipíco Festival in Cuapa, Nicaragua

Each year, cities in Nicaragua take turns holding an annual Hipíco (horse) festival, and each year, thousands of locals travel from all over the country to this festival. These locals ride their horses to these different towns or bring them in trailers so they can ride them in a parade.

When I was in Grenada, Nicaragua, my cousin told me about the festival that was coming up the next weekend in the town of Cuapa. He had been there previously and had friends who would love to meet me and show me their small town and festival.

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Meylin (left) and some of her family

I arrived in Cuapa after hitch hiking for about six hours. On my final ride, I asked if anyone knew Meylin Rey, the friend of my cousin. They knew exactly who I was talking about and took me to her house. Meylin and her family welcomed me into their home with the usual Central American hospitality – like family. They instantly offered me something to drink and eat, and showed me to the room I would stay in for the weekend.

The next day was pretty slow, except for a bit of showing me around the small town, we all relaxed around her place. The exception to the slow day was at lunch time. The day before I had told Meylin that I had been searching for “huevos del torro,” or the balls of the bull, while I was in Grenada. They helped me finish my search. I was served “sopa de huevos del torro,” or bull ball soup.

I love trying new and exotic foods, so although slightly disturbed that I was actually going to be eating these, I loved that I was able to eat them. I can not describe the taste, but they were surprisingly good. Would I eat them again? Maybe. Will I search for them again? No, I don’t regret eating it, but it’s not something I want to knowingly eat again.

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Sunday was the day the festival began. I wasn’t warned about its bang of a beginning. At 5AM, I was awakened by the pounding of drums and music of different instruments. The town was beginning the day with their annual early morning parade of local horses and music. About 100 locals of Cuapa paraded up through the town playing music and riding their horses. When the parade was over, I got ready, and Meylin’s older brother, Jose, showed up. He brought a horse to pick me up for our hour long ride up the mountain to the family “finca,” or, farm.

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This was my first horse back ride in quite a few years, so I really enjoyed the opportunity to ride again, no matter how painful to my rear! The farm was beautiful, situated in the mountains and surrounded by them, providing beautiful views. At the farm, I was greeted by Meyli’s other brother, Juan, and her father and other finca workers, along with the women in the kitchen cooking breakfast.

During the few hours I was at the finca, I was able to experience a few other new firsts. Meylin’s father took me over to the cow pen where the workers were milking the cows and showed me how to milk them. After milking one into a cup, I drank the warm, bubbly, milk on the spot. It was very sugary and delicious, but much like the bull balls, I don’t think I will be hunting cows to drink fresh milk again.

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After some time at the finca, I rode a four-wheeler/ATV back to Meyli’s house. Around two in the afternoon, about two hours later than it was supposed to start, some of the family and I climbed into a couple of cars and went over to a restaurant where the parade was beginning. Hundreds of people, locals of Cuapa and many more from other area’s in Nicaragua, rode their horses up the street into town.

They performed tricks like having the horses walk sideways and backwards or jump from side to side with their hind-legs while keeping the front hooves on the ground. Nearly everyone had cowboy boots, hats, and outfits on, and some dressed up in dresses and costumes. It was also a rainy day, so many had rain jackets and covers for their hats.

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After this second parade, we all went to the center of town where the parade led to. A couple thousand people were then crowding the streets. There were food stands, arts and crafts vendors, people selling sombrero’s and numerous other things.

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We wandered around the town center, watching the horsemen and women do tricks and show off their prized horses. Throughout the day, there was lots of music being played by locals, and towards the end of the day, there was lots of dancing to go with it!

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Meyli and I (kind of) dancing

The festival was a lot of fun and I highly recommend that anyone who ever gets a chance to go to one of these festivals, does. It is such a great cultural experience. Having the chance to immerse in a local (and not a tourist kind of local) annual festival and surrounded the culture of it all is an incredible experience!

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