We were welcomed into Rivas by some very friendly taxi drivers. Experience has taught me to be circumspect at the descending hordes of people offering taxis, buses, accommodation but sometimes you have to trust to instinct and these guys seemed genuine enough. They assured us that the bus we had intended getting was not available; it had already left and there were no more that evening. It was getting dark, and the thought of navigating the building site that was the San Jorge port with full packs and weary girls, to find a bus and then to negotiate a busy bus station and still have to get taxis to our hostel was rather daunting. So we negotiated a price and off we set. Our taxi driver proudly talked about Nicaragua and its people and he even showed us his house! He also showed us where the Spanish conquistadores and Nicaraguans signed the Declaration of Independence in 1821. A cross and a statue mark the point in the road. He told us about how Christopher Columbus came in 1492 and the Spanish stole the land of the indigenous people and drove them out. He was proud of how all the countries that were colonised by Spain have now achieved their independence and their freedom. There is a real sense here of patriotism and pride in who they are; poor but free after the struggles they have had in the latter part of the 20th century. In the Parque Central there are statues of the people from the FSLN who were instrumental in overthrowing the dictator Somoza. It has taken the country many years to get over the damage caused to the economy by Somoza and whilst the poverty here is clearly evident systems are in place and seem to be working.
The lady at the Hospedaje Lidia welcomed us in a much more friendly manner than the Señora in Ometepe but she was still quite dour! However, once the girls greeted her in Spanish and made efforts to communicate she relaxed and was much more chatty. We were ready to eat so headed out towards the Parque Central where our taxi driver had recommended a cheap place to eat local food. As we got closer we could hear the sound of drums and presumed it was some sort of procession – another bit of information from our taxi driver. We have been hearing fireworks all the time we have been here and he said they are set off during the processions which are part of the nightly celebrations leading up to Christmas. When we arrived at the square an area to the right was filled with drummers drumming all different types of drums, there were also trumpeters and percussionists. On the stage a large group of girls were dancing to the beat. It was fantastic to listen to and watch. They threw the large bass drums over their heads and swirled them around without missing a beat! Each section played and then passed on to the next or accompanied each other. It was totally mesmerising and we stood there for over half an hour. There seemed to be no sign of them finishing so we made our way to the restaurant which was actually at the corner of the square so we ate our delicious Gallo Pinto whilst still listening to the band.
To finish the evening off the girls danced to the very cheesy Christmas music playing from the bandstand in the Parque Central. It is interesting how differently we behave when we know that the people who are watching us will never see us again! It makes me think about how that idea plays out in an online environment where we can maintain a certain amount of anonymity or even re-invent ourselves completely. Food for thought.