Make Some Time to Visit Subtiava

Largely occupied by Subtiava Indians, the barrio of Subtiava is situated about four kilometers west of León’s city center in Nicaragua. Although it is now a suburb, Subtiava long predates León and existed as an independent community for centuries before being incorporated into the city in 1902. Subtiavia is home to one of the oldest churches in Nicaragua. The recently renovated 300 year old Subtiava Indian Church is open to visitors and offers interesting insight into the history of the area.

Many age-old Subtiava traditions have been passed on through the generations and there is a great community spirit among the people, who are warm and friendly. Everybody seems to know everybody else and, for example, the baker doesn’t need a sign above his door in order to sell his freshly baked bread, neither does the shoe-mender need to advertise his services – everyone knows where to find them. They also know the shoe-mender’s fondness for poetry and his shop is often the gathering place for informal intellectual and philosophical discussions.

Festivals are enjoyed by all in Subtiava and visitors are encouraged to join in. During November and December it is common to see groups of young boys parading through the streets beating snare drums, accompanied by another young boy wearing a huge “gigantona” – a papier-mâché figure of an elegant lady from the colonial-era. These young boys will deliver impromptu recitals of poetry, very often quoting works of Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío, in exchange for a few córdobas. These colorful carnival-style gigantonas are judged for a prize during the festival of La Purísima at the beginning of December.

Another event which is enthusiastically celebrated is the Holy Week Festival of Easter. This festival, which involves the whole city of León as well as Granada, strives to remind people of the story of Christ’s sacrifice. One of the highlights of the program is the special street painting “carpets” made from colored sawdust in the barrio of Subtiava on Good Friday. Visitors are invited to share in this fascinating tradition, which blends art with religion, under the guidance of Subtiava’s master sawdust artists. In the evening these exquisitely designed sawdust carpets are trampled by a procession representing the deceased Christ.

Nicaragua is a fascinating country with hospitable people who welcome the opportunity to share the beauty of their country with visitors. If you are traveling in Nicaragua, you may want to take some time to explore Subtiava and spend some time with the people that call this historic barrio home.