The Theatrical Masterpiece of El Güegüense

If you enjoy the theatre, then you simply must try to see El Güegüense the next time you visit Nicaragua. This theatrical play is often regarded as being Nicaragua’s signature theatrical masterpiece which combines music, dance, theatre and folklore into one beautiful, colorful drama.

El Güegüense is also known as Macho Ratón. It was the first literary work to emerge from Nicaragua in its post-Columbian era and so it is often seen as sort of literary icon. In fact, there is a monument built in its honor in Rotonda in Managua. What is particularly interesting about El Güegüense in Nicaragua is the fact that it was written by an anonymous author. Its 16th century dating makes it one of the oldest indigenous theatrical works to emerge in the Western Hemisphere. It is thought that the play would have been passed down orally for generations until it was finally written down and published. It is noteworthy that the original written version was both in Nahuatl and Spanish – something which no doubt made it more accessible to the people of Nicaragua. The production’s genre is ‘satirical drama’ and, like most cultural plays, there is a lot of meaning behind what is said and done by the various characters.

There are fourteen characters in the play that are divided up into three mestizos or groups: the main character and his sons, the Spanish authorities and the women. The production is named after the main character, El Güegüense, whose name basically means ‘old, wise man’. The central plot of the production is one of deception for monetary gain and this has resulted in El Güegüense often being referred to as symbolic of certain local government officials. The characters in the production all use masks and their clothing is bright, colorful and traditional – aspects of the wardrobe which make the play an extra-special treat for foreigners. It is also interesting to note that El Güegüense has been proclaimed a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO. You’ll be able to enjoy the delights of El Güegüense from 17-27 January as part of the San Sebastian festival in Diriamba. It is a worthwhile treat!