Cities across Nicaragua host hípicos, equestrian parades, throughout the year, but Estelí’s in December is one of the biggest. People come from all over Nicaragua (and, I’m told, Central America) to fill the streets. The bus I caught the night before from León proved the point: I stood in the aisle, squished between two men in cowboy hats the entire way. The next morning the fashion was plaid shirts, jeans, and cowboy hats and boots, for both the riders and their admirers.
People flowed down the calle principal, jockeying for viewing spots, and stopping to refuel with cotton candy, grilled chicken, and beer. There were more beer stands than any other food, and the riders themselves cradled cans of Toña (the national beer) and plastic cups that flashed golden in the sun.
I braced myself against a small tree as the riders came past, their horses prancing and high-stepping, sometimes at angles, or sauntering at a walk. The tree also served as a protective measure: when the horses got too close I quickly ducked behind it.
The horses ran the gamut from pure-bred to country stock, all ridden with bravado. Children and women also paraded through the streets.
Some riders showed off, spurring their horses to rear or arch their necks, and sometimes the horses themselves, lathered and stressed, backed into each other or wheeled around suddenly. Add in drunk riders and drunk men staggering through the parade, slapping rumps and grabbing reins, and the event felt pretty Wild West!