Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Festiva Balsa Mantena (Raft Festival)

In the town of Solango, just south of Puerto Lopez (where we buy our lobsters fresh off the boat), they hold a rituaistic festival in early October.

La Festiva Balsa Mantena in Solango, Manabi honors Panchamama (Earth Mother) and prays for a bountiful fishing harvest and safe maritime travels in the upcoming year. The ladies sitting with me tried to explain all of the significance to me, but I still need to learn a lot more language to get it. The ceremony started with a processional of the Shaman and helpers, dancers, and musicians followed by the selection of the cultural representative (basically a very brief beauty pagent). Then came the prayer (mostly sounds of conch shell horns and the whistle - few if any words). 

The Shaman gathered the children together. He and one of his helpers blew on the conch shell horns and a whistle that appeared to be made from a gourd. While this was going on, chocolates were passed out to the children, and the ceremonial fire was lit. Periodically oils/liquids were poured onto the wood resulting in increased smoke. 

La Balsa (a replica of the rafts used prior to the arrival of the Spanish) was then launched. Her sail was trimmed, and she was towed by a fishing boat to Isla Solango. Upon reaching la isla, La Balsa was turned, her sails raised, and she sailed back to the mainland under the power of the wind in her sail. The Shaman rode at the top of the mast the entire journey. 

Only the one symbolic dance was performed during La Balsa's journey. Since it was completed before La Balsa returned, an intermission was called on the entertainment. 

Once La Balsa had safely returned, the festivities resumed with more dancing of many kinds. We left before it was over because I forgot the sunscreen.

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