Devotees of San Juan Bautista in Nicaragua fight with whips to pay promises

Devotees of San Juan Bautista in Nicaragua fight with whips to pay promises
Devotees of San Juan Bautista in Nicaragua fight with whips to pay promises

San Juan de Oriente (Nicaragua), June 24 (EFE).- In a picturesque town in the Pacific of Nicaragua, devotees of San Juan Bautista fight with whips made from the stuffed penis of a bull to pay the promises made to this saint. , in a violent ritual that has been going on for more than four centuries and is known as ‘Los Chinegros’.

The place that hosts this religious, popular and violent festival is the municipality of San Juan de Oriente, where every June 24 dozens of devotees of San Juan Bautista gather, regardless of age, gender or relationship, to get involved with whips, with dancing. including.

The dance is known as ‘Los Chinegros’, which consists of making a circle with spectators so that devotees of the saint, two by two, fight with ‘chilillos’ (whips) made with the stuffed penis of a bull to which they give sword-shaped and capable of splitting skin with a single touch.

In this way and to repay miracles and favors received, Saint John the Baptist is venerated and adored in this town of indigenous origin, which dates back to 1585.

Despite its violent and sometimes bloody nature, this practice is carried out to keep alive that tradition that is part of the cultural identity of the town and in which it is repeated countless times among men, children and some women.

The rivals whip each other without any type of protection and sometimes leave the participants bruised, bloody and with peeling skin, according to EFE.

That is why in these fights there is no winner or winner. There is no pay. No bets are raised. There are no victories or defeats. No enmities are aroused.

However, as harsh as it may seem, there are rules such as not aiming at the face or below the waist. And each has the same opportunities to attack, and stop when the opponent leaves the attacking position.

If one of the rivals violates the parameters, the spectators interrupt the contest. The one who executes his attack and defense movements with greater speed and technique has the greatest advantage, and any opponent who is left-handed.

“We take it as a tradition, as a way to repay favors received. Some by faith towards Saint John the Baptist and others to ask for their sowing and harvests in this winter season,” explained Wilmer Potosme, one of the traditionalists.

Potosme has been whipped for three years for the health of his daughter, who was newborn at the time.

The tradition, which was declared ‘Municipal Intangible Heritage of San Juan de Oriente’ in 2019, arrived with African slaves, which explains the term ‘Los Chinegros’, according to historians.

This religious and popular festival existed in pre-Columbian times, without venerating the saint, and underwent modifications with colonization, according to historians.

Every June 24, the image of San Juan Bautista makes the journey through the main streets of San Juan de Oriente, where the greatest economic activity is the production and marketing of ceramics.

However, on this occasion and for the second consecutive year, the image was kept in the church of the same name due to police restrictions that keep processions with images of saints through the streets of Nicaragua prohibited, citing security reasons.

Despite everything, in the church atrium hundreds of people gathered to whip each other in front of curious spectators who recorded and photographed the scenes to the rhythm of philharmonic music.

Inside the temple, hundreds of devotees paid tribute to Saint John the Baptist with philharmonic music and traditional dances.

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