Nicaragua is a Central American country located between Costa Rica to the south and Honduras to the north. The highest temperature ever recorded is 38°C. One of the most popular sports is baseball, but the locals enjoy soccer as well. Nicaragua is a fascinating country, filled with animals we are not accustomed to encountering in land-locked Alberta; in fact, bull sharks travel into Lake Managua along the Rio San Juan River.

Despite interactions with explorers from Europe during the fourteen-and-fifteen-hundreds, the locals continue to dine on many pre-Columbian foods; Jocote, mango, papaya, tamarind, bananas, pipian, avocado and yucca are common local foods. Nicaraguans also use herbs such as cilantro, oregano, and achiote. In terms of meat they eat the tail, the udder, the stomach, or the brain from cows; the testicales from bulls; the skin and blood of pigs. Also, turtle meat and eggs, boas, armadillos and lizards. The foundation of the Nicaraguan diet is corn, which is eaten in a variety of forms. Nacatamal is a popular steamed corn cake filled with meat and veggies then wrapped in a banana leaf. They are served on special occasions. Vigorón, a dish that originated in Granada, consists of part of a plantain leaf topped with yucca, chicharron (fried pork belly) and a tomato, cabbage salad. Indio Viejo is a dish that uses all native ingredients. Garlic, sweet pepper, tomato, onion and meat (most often beef) is wrapped in a corn tortilla.

Nicaragua’s national dish is Gallo pinto, which consists of fried rice, beans, onions, sweet pepper and spices. Rosquillas is an appetizer made from corn dough mixed with egg, cheese, butter and lard. Rondon is made with turtle meat, fish, read meat and/or pork. The meat is combined with pepper, hot pepper, nargan, onion, sweet pepper, banana and yucca. Tres leches is a dessert prepared with milk, condensed milk and cream. Use flour and eggs to make a cake, pour the milks over and top with meringue. Cajeta de Coco is made by mixing thin strips of coconut and yucca into a sauce made from coconut water and dulce (a candy). Chicha is a fermented or non-fermented drink made from corn. Pinol is made from parched or roasted corn ground into flour and mixed with water, sugar and spices. It can be either a drink or an oatmeal-like paste. Arroz con pina is a drink that is made using rice, pineapple and milk. Adding vanilla, strawberries or sugar is optional. Gaubul is a drink of mashed banana, milk, coconut water and sugar.

The music of Nicaragua is a mix of indigenous and Spanish music, which blends to create a sound unique to the area. Music from Cuba, Mexico, Brazil, Panama, Europe and the US are also popular. Marimba is the most commonly used instrument and the way its played makes a difference between the music of other Central American counties. The drum is in between the musician’s knees, unlike the other countries, which place the drum on a stand. A bass fiddle, a guitar and a guitarrilla are also common instruments. Palo de Mayo is lively dance music played especially on the Caribbean coast. In May, there is a festival dedicated to this style of music. Many communities try to out do each other with costumes and floats. The traditional Túlululu dance is preformed at the very end of the festival, midnight on May 31. Punta is another common music, typically played at special occasions. Duo Guardabarranco, Salvador Cardenal, Luis Enrique Mejia Godoy, Dimension Costeña and Camilo Zapata are a few famous local musicians.

El Güegüense, also known as Macho Ratón, is a satirical drama, and is one of the most distinctive dances, combining music, dance and theater to give the audience a well-rounded experience. El Viejo y La Vieja is a common two partner dance. The man wears a long sleeve shirt covered by a jacket, pants, a mask and a traditional palm hat with ribbons. He holds a cane and daces very slowly. The woman wears a colourful dress as well as a palm hat covered in flowers and a mask. She moves quickly unlike the man. Instruments used are marimba de arco, the guitar and the guitarrilla. Toro Huaco is part of the heritage of Nicaragua. It is a carnival parade dance danced by men in rags for over 100 years. This dance is usually preformed at the Saint Sebastian festival. All the locals dress in colourful outfits and a wooden mask partly covered by a scarf. Dancers wear a very decorative hat and carry a tajona (small whip). A single musician plays a small drum and wooden whistle. Toro Guaco is a dance from the city of Leon.

Nicaragua is a country that is unique but also takes influence from the rest of the world. It may not be a common destination for Albertans looking to go somewhere tropical, however it is worth the long trip, as, in addition to beautiful beaches and remarkable churches, it contains an incredible blend of indigenous and international cuisine and entertainment. Visitors can look forward to a one-of-a-kind experience that they will never forget.