Friday, June 27, 2014

Seven Videos Of The Palo De Mayo (May Pole) Festival in Bluefield, Nicaraugua

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is the first of a number of posts on the Bluefield, Nicaragua's (Central America)'s Palo De Mayo (May Pole) Celebrations.

This post presents information about Bluefield and information about its Maypole carnival celebrations. In addition, this post showcases seven videos of Bluefield's May Pole celebrations.

Click for the post "Bluefield, Nicaragua's Tulululu Songs & Dances".

Click for a post on the Nicaraguan group Dimension Costena.

Also, click for a pancocojams post about the song "Mayaya Lasinki".

The content of this post is provided for folkloric, cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who keep alive the traditional celebration of May Pole Festival In Bluefield, Nicaragua. Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. In addition, thanks to those featured in these videos and the publishers of these YouTube videos.

"Bluefields (or Blewfields) is the capital of the municipality of the same name, and of Región Autónoma del Atlántico Sur (R.A.A.S.) in Nicaragua....

Bluefields was named after the Dutch pirate Abraham Blauvelt who hid in the bay’s waters in the early 17th century.[1] It has a population of 87,000 (2005)[2] and its inhabitants are mostly Mestizo, Miskito, whites, blacks, along with smaller communities of Garifuna, Chinese, Sumu, and Ramas. Bluefields is Nicaragua’s chief Caribbean port, from where hardwood, seafood, shrimp and lobster are exported. Bluefields was a rendezvous for English and Dutch buccaneers in the 16th and 17th century...

Consensus exists that the black Africans first appeared in the Caribbean coast in 1641, when a Portuguese ship that transported slaves wrecked in the Miskito Cays...

On the other hand, slaves originating in Jamaica that sought freedom on the Nicaraguan coast continued arriving during the greater part of the 19th century"...

[I added this passage because I realized that this post didn't include any time frames for when Nicaragua's Palo De Mayo celebration began.]
"Vibrant Caribbean rhythms and colorful processions, marks the start of the Palo de Mayo festival, a tribute to Mayaya African goddess of fertility. This celebration dates from the early nineteenth century, is an adaptation of the British tradition who celebrated first day of May with a feast.

Considered the highest expression of culture and tradition of the Caribbean of Nicaragua, the first of May starts with a presentation around a tree which is decorated with colored ribbons and around which dances are performed as welcome to the rainy season , production and new life.

Initially took place on Corn Island, then in Pearl Lagoon and now is celebrated in Bluefields attracting spectators from all the surrounding area and from all over the country who not only witness but are passed with the energy and joy this activity....

Throughout the month of May and especially on weekends, a variety of cultural events at night, highlighting the dances like punta, zumba, the guanara and Gulye, sensual dance movements are showen, so common on Afriocaribean dances...

Definitely this festival, that has disappeared in other countries where was celebrated, in Nicaragua has passed from generations to generations and lived with great intensity year after year."

"No doubt if you have done any research on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua you have heard something about the Maypole festival. Often called “deh carnival” by the locals, the Maypole festival is a hybrid festival that traces its roots back to both the English May Day rites and the indigenous worship of Mayaya, the goddess of fertility. This clash of rituals has given birth to the sexiest celebration outside of Rio...

On the weekends starting about mid month there are frequent concerts going on somewhere in town, usually the park. I will post schedules of events on the calendar as I find out about them. However, the biggest, loudest and wildest party happens on the last weekend of the month. The May Pole festival weekend begins with the carnival which showcases the neighborhood dance groups dressed in full carnival regalia parading through the streets of downtown Bluefields until night, where they then dance on stage as a prelude to the concert that usually follows. The last party on the last night of the last weekend culminates in the Tulululu, the wild march between Old Bank barrio and Cottontree. The Tulululu is a rambunctious parade with its own dance, the aptly named tulululu. More of a thing than a dance, you will know what to do when you see the tulululu tunnels. Some stretch for a block or more.

The famous May Pole dancing

Children learn how to dance May Pole as soon as soon as they learn how to walk, and to watch the adults in the street is to watch art and culture in motion. The dancers dress like they stepped out of the 1800s and move with an unshakable rhythm that compliments the traditional May Pole music as if the beats were born from the dance itself. The females hike up their dresses to keep them off the ground and dance to tease their partner on the other side of the May Pole tree. The man steps around the tree in delicate chase, pounding the ground with his bare feet and folding his arms behind his back like…like a big chicken! He usually carries a rag and the crowd always cheers when he throws it to the ground, only to bend down to pick it up with his teeth. The man then gets closer to the woman who makes no mistake about wanting to be caught, and for a brief moment the dance climaxes with the two simulating sex as the audience goes wild and pushes in closer to see. It is always the female dancer who breaks it off, usually turning away laughing toward her friends who are the ones laughing the hardest. Sometimes several more female dances will have their turn being chased around the pole, and sometimes other couples in the crowd will step up and dance as well. These dances usually happen in the neighborhood festivals, but are easiest seen during the carnival parade and beginning of the Tulululu."
Click "Del Palo De Mayo History"; Mr. Johnny Hodgson Deerings, Historian Costeño . This is an English translation of an article written in Spanish about the history of the May Pole Festival in Bluefield, Nicaragua. Here's a brief excerpt from that article:
"In 1988 Professor Hugo Sujo interviewed a man of 78 years named Mr. Maxwell Atily in favor of the formal version of the Maypole Cotton Tree in the neighborhood. Asked about his past involvement in such festivities said:

"We used songs like "Mayaya las im key”. We formed a circle and we had a great key, which passed from hand to hand in the circle, while dancing someone in the circle for the key. Upon discovering the key in the hands of someone, that person had to go to the center of the dancing circle and look for the key that was passed from hand to hand until he finds it in the hands of another person who had to take his place at the center circle, and so on.

Any decent person of good character could join the dance. Served refreshments [included], chicha ginger, taro root cake, rice cake, the "pinkypinky" - a mild alcoholic drink made ​​and so named for the pink color I[t] had. None of strong drink. We decorated [the] stick [the pole?] and put the fruit [on it]. After dancing [were] fruits divided between those who wanted [them]. During the dance couples changed [moved]* in a decent way. No one clutched another [person]*, [no one did any] of the vulgarities [that are] committed to do today. [that are done today].* "
*I changed the way that sentence was constructed to conform to standard English. The words or letters in brackets are my additions to improve the sentence's English language translation.

Click that link given above for a text version of the song "Mayaya Lost Her Key" (Creole: "Mayaya lass im key"). "Mayaya Lasinki" is a contemporary form of that song's title. A recording of that song by the Nicaraguan group Dimensión Costeña is featured in the pancocojams post about that group.

These examples are presented in chronological order based on their posting date on YouTube, with the oldest examples given first.

Example #1: Palo de Mayo 2007 - Bluefields

Curt Myers, Uploaded May 11, 2008
Palo de Mayo = May pole

Example #2: Carnaval Bluefields 2010.wmv

Bluefilms Raas, June 6, 2010

mimm091285, 2011
"Lo que dijo la chica es falso. El ritmo de palo de mayo no proviene en lo mas mínimo de Inglaterra. Ese ritmo es proveniente de los africanos que como esclavos fueron llevados por los ingleses. El ritmo de palo de mayo es patrimonio de los negros no de los blancos. A los blancos la música clásica pero a los negros es el mero ritmo del palo de mayo, el jazz, el blus, la samba, la bossa nova, el latin jazz. Los negros pusieron la mitad de la música mundial. Pero por supuesto que si."
Gooble translate from Spanish to English
"Whatever the girl said is false. The pace of maypole comes not in the least in England. That pace is from African slaves that were brought by the British. The pace is maypole heritage of blacks from whites. A classic white but black music is the sheer pace of the maypole, jazz, blus, samba, bossa nova, latin jazz. Blacks put half of world music. But of course it is."
Pace= in this context = rhythm [?]
A classic white but black music = a classic mixture of White & Black music [?]

Example #3: Carnaval Bluefields 2010 2da parte.wmv [part 2]

Bluefilms Raas, June 6, 2010

Example #4: Palo de Mayo Dancers at BICU 2011 [May Pole Dancers]

ALBeebers, Uploaded Feb 24, 2012

At the BICU at the Bluefields, RAAS, Nicaragua, 2011
BICU = Bluefields Indian and Caribbean University (BICU), a campus of The University of the Autonomous Regions of the Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast (

Guillermo Duarte, 2013
Que viva la cultura prístina de los hermanos de pueblos originarios y afrodescendientes que pueblan la costa caribe nicaragüense!!!!
Google translate: Long live the pristine culture of the indigenous brothers and African descent who inhabit the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua!!

Example #5: Reportaje Especial El Palo de Mayo

Canal 4 Nicaragua, June 1, 2012

La costa alantica de nuestras pais se viste de gala con la fiesta de mayo y su tradiconal palo de mayo...
English translation: The Alantic coast of our nation is the sight of the May festival with its traditional May pole.

Example #6: The best of Bluefields Maypole carnival, May 2011

betyerbottomdollar, June 7, 2011

The highlights of the May Pole Carnival held in Bluefields, Nicaragua .2011

Example #7: Carnaval Bluefields 2012.mp4

Neyda Dixon, Published on Jun 18, 2012

En las actividades del palo de mayo, este sabado en Bluefields el colorido, la musica y el baile se adeuñaron de las calles, cuando miles de costeños y turistas nacionales y extranjeros salieron a las calles a honrar a la diosa mayaya o fertilidad, en agradecimiento a las primeras lluvias.

Google translate from Spanish to English:
The activities of the maypole, this Saturday in Bluefields colorful, music and dance adeuñaron streets when thousands of coastal and domestic and foreign tourists lined the streets to honor the goddess or fertility mayaya in gratitude the first rains.

BONUS: June 20, 2013

Here's another video of Palo De Mayo celebrations:

Example #8: Inicio las fiestas de mayo en Bluefields, 2013

Neyda Dixon, Published on May 3, 2013

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  1. One of the reasons for this pancocojams blog is to raise the awareness of Black cultures throughout the world.

    I wasn't aware of this May Pole carnival tradition in Nicaragua until I happened upon a YouTube video of it. Indeed, I didn't even know that there were Black people in Nicaragua or in so many other places covered in other pancocojams posts.

    Thanks YouTube!

  2. I've added a video to which includes two interviews about Nicaragua's Palo De Malo celebrations. In one of those interviews, a historian who was born & raised in Bluefields indicated that Palo De Mayo came from the British custom of celebrating May day. He also indicated that those celebrations were more conservative, but that the dancing is more erotic now.

    In contrast, a woman who was born & raised in Bluefields indicated that Bluefields' Palo De Mayo celebration originated in Egypt and came from England and Jamaica.

    It's interesting to see how opinions about customs that members of the general public may have differ from the views of those customs by historians.